Natural Resources

Flexibility sought for water-related projects

Nebraska could use a variety of alternate contract methods for state-sponsored water-related infrastructure projects under a bill considered Feb. 2 by the Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Bruce Bostelman
Sen. Bruce Bostelman

LB723, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman at the request of Gov. Jim Pillen, would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to use public-private partnerships, construction manager-general contractor, design-build and progressive design-build project methods when contracting for public water and natural resource projects.

Under the bill, the department would develop guidelines by July 1, 2024, for entering into such contracts, including requests for proposals and evaluation criteria for ranking them. The department also would be required to pay a stipend in an amount determined at its discretion to qualified design builders that submit proposals but are not selected — giving the department ownership of the intellectual property contained in those proposals.

Bostelman said the Legislature has granted the state Department of Transportation, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and several other political subdivisions the ability to use these innovative contract delivery methods — enabling greater efficiencies and best practices by engaging contractors earlier in the process — and LB723 simply would allow the Department of Natural Resources to do the same.

“All three [options] are intended to reduce a project’s overall costs and construction time,” he said.

Department of Natural Resources director Tom Riley testified in support of the bill, which he said would help the department facilitate large natural resources projects such as the Perkins County Canal Project approved by the Legislature last session. The bill doesn’t provide any funding or conflict with any current competitive bidding requirements, he said.

“The bill’s purpose is simple — provide the department flexibility in project delivery methods in order to provide the best value for the state,” Riley said.

Alex Linden, government and public relations manager for the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, also testified in favor of LB723.

The district already has the option to engage in the alternative contracting methods outlined in the bill, he said, and providing the same options to the Department of Natural Resources would allow them to complete major projects in a timely, well-designed and cost-effective manner.

No one testified in opposition to the proposal and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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