The Bent County commissioners voted unanimously on June 6 to lease the county’s Lower Arkansas Water Management Association water shares to preferred Bent County Residents at $55 a share.

“Typically, what we do is charge the same or slightly less than LAWMA,” said County Administrator Calvin Feik.

The association's water shares owned by the county will be leased at a discount rate compared to the shares normally leased by the association. They normally are listed at $60 per share.

The water shares will be leased to preferred Bent County residents, with local farmers getting priority.

Feik indicated a few local farmers have asked if the county would be leasing water shares this year. If the number of leases is low, Feik said he will make calls to people who have leased shares in the past to see if they would be interested in leasing this year.

Bent County has more shares than it needs, so the hope is that the funds from these extra shares can help support the Fort Lyon community. That is because all of the proceeds will go directly into the Fort Lyon-generated revenue.

“The Fort Lyon shares, like what they would have used for the farm land out there that we don’t run it on … we typically lease those out,” said Feik when asked by Commission Chairwoman Jean Sykes why the revenue from shares will go to Fort Lyon.

Feik spoke about how when the county sold scrap metal, proceeds went to a street renovation because that’s where the funds were scheduled to be allocated.

The association water shares from the beginning were scheduled to be allocated to Fort Lyon, said Feik. Any other shares besides the estimated 207 shares that were discussed would go to the county.

Bent County acquired these  shares by trading their Fort Lyon Canal shares to the association. Last year, the water shares netted the county more than $13,000, which Feik attributes to last year being a drier year, which meant they could charge more for shares. This year, with the increased moisture, the leasing of the water shares is projected to generate an estimated $11,000 for Fort Lyon.

The water shares being leased will not affect the hog farm shares because, Feik said, those shares are “under commitment.”

The hope for these new shares are that leasing them will help local farmers in need of additional water, as well as help the Fort Lyon community irrigate as needed to care for lawns and the farming in the area.