Bill would clarify NRDs erosion authority

Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) would be authorized to issue cease and desist orders to resolve incidences of excessive erosion under a bill heard by the Natural Resources Committee Feb. 6.

LB896, introduced by Holdrege Sen. Tom Carlson, would establish a definition of excessive erosion and implement a process for NRDs to resolve erosion issues. Carlson said the Erosion and Sediment Control Act, as currently written, limits NRDs in dealing with potential problems.

“The conversion and development of highly erodible land raises the potential for increased erosion and sediment problems,” he said. “This would provide the authority they need to effectively handle complaints.”

The bill would define excessive erosion as the occurrence of erosion in excess of the applicable soil-loss tolerance level, which causes or contributes to an accumulation of sediment upon the lands of any other person to the detriment or damage of such person. Ephemeral and gully erosion also would be included in the calculation of soil loss under the bill.

If an NRD determined that erosion occurred as a result of an activity not normally associated with tillage, seeding or cultivation of farm land, LB896 would authorize the district to petition for an immediate cease and desist order until excess erosion could be brought into conformance with the soil-loss tolerance level or sediment resulting from excess erosion were prevented from leaving the property.

LB896 also would remove a requirement that NRDs provide at least 90 percent cost-sharing assistance to landowners to reach compliance with accepted soil-loss tolerance levels. NRDs still would be authorized to provide cost-sharing assistance to landowners on a voluntary basis. A lack of available cost-sharing assistance would not offset a landowner’s responsibility to bring his or her land into compliance.

Mike Onnen, general manager of the Little Blue NRD, testified in support of the bill. He said currently landowners simply can ask their neighbors to file complaints in order to take advantage of the cost-sharing assistance to bring land into compliance.

“This bill would tighten the reins, address some loopholes and give NRDs a little more teeth to manage soil erosion,” Onnen said.

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

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