Bill requiring state application to Environmental Trust for water funding approved

The state Department of Natural Resources will apply to the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund to receive funds for water projects under a bill approved May 11.

LB229, introduced by Valentine Sen. Deb Fischer, requires the department to submit an application to the trust for a three-year $9.9 million grant to aid management actions taken to reduce consumptive uses of water, enhance stream flows, recharge groundwater or support wildlife habitats in any fully appropriated or overappropriated river basin.

The application will be awarded 50 points in the project ranking process if the Legislature provides matching $3.3 million annual appropriations for three years. Funds will be transferred to the Water Resources Cash Fund.

In order to provide $3.3 million to match the trust grant, the bill provides two appropriations of $600,000 from the general fund to the Water Resources Cash Fund to complement existing appropriations of $2.7 million per year. It also directs the department to apply to the trust for another three-year grant if:

  • projects and activities funded by the first grant contribute to the conservation, enhancement and restoration of Nebraska’s ground water and surface water resources;
  • the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee submits by Dec. 1, 2012, a report detailing water needs, funding sources and recommendations for legislation; and
  • the department provides a report verifying that natural resources districts provided matching funds for projects, 10 percent or less of the matching funds were provided by in-kind contributions and all other projects received matches of at least 40 percent from other funding sources.

Lawmakers voted 39-5 on final reading to approve LB229.

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