Reauthorizing the Riparian Vegetation Task Force
I hope you all enjoyed the Easter Weekend celebrating our Lord's resurrection, and the hope we have for a new life in Him. This is one of my favorite times of the year as we spend time with family and friends remembering what Christ did for us.
Many of you have contacted my office regarding Legislative Bill 98 that reauthorizes the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force and the program, which awarded grants to clear rivers in fully and over appropriated basins of invasive species. Last week the Legislature debated LB 98 and it advanced to Select File on a 35-3-11 vote.
The removal of vegetation in the Republican River over the last two years has been a great success and money well spent. Many of you have seen the dramatic improvement in the carrying capacity of the river firsthand in the stretches of river cleaned so far. LB 98 reauthorizes the Task Force until June 30, 2013, and appropriates spending authority for the next two fiscal years.
Specifically, the bill will give authority to spend $2 million each year for the next two years from the Noxious Weed and Invasive Plant Species Assistance Fund. Currently, as the bill stands right now, there are four funding sources.
This noxious weed assistance fund currently has available $250,000 that was transferred into it last session from the funds collected under the Commercial Feed Act. A one-time transfer of $500,000 of unobligated funds from the Buffer Strip Incentive Fund is also currently in the bill. In addition, it is believed that sufficient funding from grants with the Environmental Trust Fund and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be achieved to provide the remaining dollars needed over the next two years.
In 2008, with last year's rainfall, at the 95th percentile of the 50-year average, Nebraska made up 80,000 acre feet -- AF -- to the compact with Kansas. Regarding what portion of the 80,000 AF savings was due to vegetation removal, it is our best estimate based on plant counts and previous studies that 46,000 AF was saved by cleaning the riverbeds.
Moreover, the removal of the vegetation increased the carrying capacity of the Republican River below Harlan Reservoir from 300 cubic feet per second -- CFS -- to 1000 CFS. Because of the vegetation removal and other factors, Nebraska finds itself in compliance with Kansas for the five-year rolling average from 2004 to 2008. These facts are significant, considering not all the work is done on the Republican River.
This is why it is very important that we reauthorize the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force and funding for the vegetation removal program. Finishing the Republican River along with other rivers that desperately need the same work is vitally important to managing our water resources wisely. I support LB 98 wholeheartedly. I will continue to help move it forward to the Governor's desk.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with comments, concerns, questions, or ideas.