Surface water transfers...A taboo phrase for some, prudent management for others.
I do not say this to put others down, but to express the political reality regarding water transfers from one river basin to another river basin.
As most of you know I fall in the camp that believes that these types of transfers can be used to prudently manage Nebraska's water resources. I believe we can identify certain times and circumstances when it makes perfect sense to move water. That is why I introduced LB653, which will be heard in the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee Wednesday, March 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Lincoln.
Currently, transfers are legal under Nebraska law through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit process. However, that process is a fairly cumbersome permit process, which makes the likelihood of a basin to basin transfer very unlikely.
The time I identified when unappropriated surface water exists and is not being managed well, is during a flood event. This specific time is what LB653 focuses on. It would provide the authority for Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) and Irrigation Districts, along with DNR to enter into an agreement that sets up guidelines to move water from one basin to another during times of flood.
The primary reasons I see for this are: One, diversion of water can lessen or eliminate private and public property damage down stream; two, diversions provide additional water to fill reservoirs; three, diversions provide additional water for beneficial use that would have left the state unused and; these diversions reduce the likelihood that river basins fall out of compliance with compacts, agreements, or decrees.
The agreements between basins would need to be done prior to any diversion of unappropriated flood water. In addition, the basin of destination would be second in time and second in right to all internal water resources projects within the basin of origin. This seeks to prevent any harm to the basin of origin, while lowering the risk of property damage due to flooding.
I see this as a potential win-win scenario to improve water management in Nebraska.
I encourage all who are interested to come and testify at the public hearing regarding LB653. Whether you are for the bill or against, I would appreciate your participation in the process. No matter what side of the issue you are on, if you cannot make it down to Lincoln for the hearing, I would be glad to enter your written testimony into the record for the hearing.
If you have comments, concerns, or questions about these bills or any other issue, please, call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/