IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
September 29, 2010
Mr. Brownback introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
To further continued economic viability in the communities on the High Plains by promoting sustainable groundwater management of the Ogallala Aquifer.
This Act may be cited as the
High Plains Groundwater Resource
Findings and purposes
Congress finds that—
a reliable source of groundwater is an essential element of the economy of the communities on the High Plains;
the High Plains Aquifer consists largely of the Ogallala Aquifer with small components of other geologic units;
the High Plains Aquifer experienced a dramatic decline in water table levels in the latter half of the 20th century;
the decline in water table levels is especially pronounced in the Southern Ogallala Aquifer, with areas in the States of Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas experiencing declines of over 100 feet from 1950 to 2007;
the saturated thickness of the High Plains Aquifer has declined by over 50 percent in some areas; and
the percentage of the High Plains Aquifer that has a saturated thickness of 100 feet or more declined from 54 percent to 51 percent in the period from 1980 to 2007;
the decreased water levels in the High Plains Aquifer coupled with higher pumping lift costs raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the High Plains;
hydrological modeling by the United States Geological Survey indicates that in the context of sustained high groundwater use in the surrounding region, reductions in groundwater pumping at the single farm level or at a local level of up to 100 square miles, have a very time-limited impact on conserving the level of the local water table, thus creating a disincentive for individual water users to invest in water conservation measures;
incentives must be created for conservation of groundwater on a regional scale, in order to achieve an agricultural economy on the High Plains that is sustainable; and
for water conservation incentives to function, Federal, State, tribal, and local water policymakers, and individual groundwater users must have access to reliable information concerning aquifer recharge rates extraction rates, and water table levels at the local and regional levels on an ongoing basis.
The purpose of this Act is to promote groundwater conservation on the High Plains in order to extend the useable life of the High Plains Aquifer.
High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Conservation Incentives Program
The Food Security Act of 1985 is amended by inserting after section 1240R (16 U.S.C. 3839bb–5) the following:
High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Conservation Incentives Program
In this section:
The term High Plains means the approximately 174,000 square miles of land surface overlying the High Plains Aquifer in the High Plains Aquifer States.
High Plains Aquifer
The term High Plains Aquifer is the
groundwater reserve depicted as Figure 1 in the United States Geological Survey
Professional Paper 1400–B, entitled
Geohydrology of the High Plains
Aquifer in Parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South
Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
High Plains Aquifer States
The term High Plains Aquifer States means the States of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
The term Program means the High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Conservation Incentives Program described in subsection (b)(1).
For each of fiscal years 2011 through 2020, the Secretary shall offer to enter into contracts with producers in the High Plains Aquifer States through a High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Conservation Incentives Program in accordance with this section.
The goal of the Program shall be to achieve significant per-acre savings of the groundwater resources of the High Plains Aquifer.
The Secretary shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that producers on land drawing water from the High Plains Aquifer throughout the High Plains region shall have an opportunity to participate in the Program.
The participation of producers in areas experiencing significant aquifer level declines shall be given a priority.
Transfer of water rights
A producer on land drawing water from the High Plains Aquifer who agrees, beginning on the date on which the producer enters into a contract under this section with the Secretary, not to irrigate all or part of the land and to transfer the water rights of the producer for the nonirrigated land to the applicable High Plains Aquifer State shall be eligible for incentive payments in accordance with this section.
In exchange for an agreement not to irrigate all or part of land described in subsection (d), the Secretary shall make 1 or more incentive payments to a producer (as determined under paragraph (2)) in an amount equal to the difference between, as determined by the Secretary—
the average amount of payments that the producer received under title I of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 8701 et seq.) on the land when irrigating the land, as determined using the average amount of payments received by the producer for the 10 most recent crop years preceding the date of the Program contract; and
the amount of payments that the producer would be expected to receive under title I of that Act on the land after conversion to dryland production for those 10 most recent crop years.
In exchange for an agreement described in subsection (d), a producer may elect to receive—
1 lump-sum incentive payment for the entire term of the agreement in the amount determined under paragraph (1); or
annual incentive payments for each year of the agreement that total, in the aggregate, the amount determined under paragraph (1).
Modifications or termination of contracts
Voluntary modification or termination
The Secretary may modify or terminate a contract entered into with a producer under this section if—
the producer agrees to the modification or termination;
the Secretary determines that the modification or termination is in the public interest.
The Secretary may terminate a contract under this section if the Secretary determines that the producer violated the contract.
Duties of producers
To receive incentive payments described in subsection (e), a producer shall agree—
to transfer water rights under subsection (d);
to implement required practices as agreed to in the contract with the Secretary; and
to comply with such additional conditions as the Secretary determines are necessary to carry out this section.
Limitation of payments
The total amount of payments paid to any 1 producer under this section may not exceed $50,000.
On application by a High Plains Aquifer State, and approval by the Secretary, the Secretary may provide funding on an annual basis to the State to carry out, in lieu of the Secretary, the activities described in this section.
Of the funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Secretary shall use to carry out this section such sums as are necessary.