Senators passed a bill April 10 that creates a Water Sustainability Fund and restructures the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission to better emphasize water sustainability.
LB1098, introduced by Holdrege Sen. Tom Carlson, requires that the Water Sustainability Fund be used to contribute to multiple water supply management goals, fund municipal sewer infrastructure projects, increase water productivity, enhance water quality and comply with interstate compacts or other agreements.
Funds will be distributed equitably throughout the state with no more than 10 percent dedicated annually to sewer infrastructure projects.
Currently, three state Natural Resources Commission members are appointed by the governor and 13 are elected to represent river basins across the state. LB1098 adds 11 members to the commission who are appointed by the governor and represent the following interests:
• ground water irrigators;
• irrigation districts;
• metropolitan utilities districts;
• municipal water users;
• outdoor recreation users;
• public power districts;
• range livestock owners;
• surface water irrigators; and
• wildlife conservation.
The bill also requires basins including three or more natural resources districts operating under an integrated management plan to develop a basin-wide plan for any areas with hydrologically connected water supplies.
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will conduct a biennial analysis of the Water Sustainability Fund, beginning in the 2019-2021 biennium.
Provisions of several additional bills were incorporated into LB1098, including:
• LB391, introduced by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, which adds “downstream” to current statute prohibiting storing water in reservoirs when water is required for direct irrigation;
• LB710, introduced by Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen, requires that a natural resources district hold a public hearing before entering into a water augmentation project outside district boundaries;
• LB723, introduced by Christensen, creates subclasses of irrigated cropland for use in the sales comparison approach of land valuation; and
• LB686, introduced by Christensen, extends the annual deadline from March 1 to June 1 for irrigators to file for an irrigated land occupation tax exemption.
Senators passed the bill on a 48-0 vote.