Lawmakers need to be proactive on water issue

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A profile Wednesday of State Sen.-elect Mark Christensen showed what is probably typical for new legislators -- hiring staff, undergoing orientation sessions, finding a place to live.

What's different this year is that Christensen has plenty of company -- rookie senators comprise nearly half the Unicameral, thanks to term limits.

It will be interesting to see how well they do, and whether bureaucrats and lobbyists actually have the undue influence many, including Gazette editorialists, fear they may have.

And, it will be interesting to see how Gov. Dave Heineman uses the advantage he may have as the more experienced head of the executive branch of Nebraska government.

We hope Heineman has more to say, on an issue vital to Southwest Nebraska, than he did Tuesday.

According to a story by The Associated Press, Heineman won't ask irrigators to help pay the state's water bills and won't ask for a statewide sales tax to pay costs associated with satisfying Kansas' claims on Republican River water. And, another idea -- taxing municipal water service -- would be about as popular as a toothache in at least one community we know of.

Heineman said he is looking at a variety of option to address the costs of implementing the new Platte River plan and dealing with Republican River issues, but we wonder what they might be. Income taxes? Other fees yet to be invented? Unfunded draconian edicts?

In the same day's news, it was noted that Heineman is seeking applications for a permanent director of the Department of Natural Resources, to replace Roger Patterson who stepped down in July 2005 and Ann Bleed who has been interim director since then.

We don't know whether to envy or pity anyone who might step forward to take on that job.

Heineman said Bleed will be considered for the job, but whoever it is must be "someone who will get his or her hands dirty" to handle the state's water issues.

We sincerely hope he finds the right person, and soon. And we sincerely hope our state senators -- rookies and old pros alike -- can hit the ground running this year.

From this point forward, Nebraska needs to be proactive on dealing with water issues and making the tough decisions while they are still ours to make.

Otherwise, someone else -- such as sharp lawyers for the State of Kansas -- will make them for us.

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