Letter to the Editor

Senator makes false claims about organization

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dear Editor,

Sen. Hughes’ December newspaper column misleads the public on key issues. He claims that “Landowners with a Common Purpose “ ( LCP,) is supported by a small number of individuals. LCP was organized over concerns related to the creation and operation by four southwest Nebraska Natural Resource Districts’ of their NCORPE project. The truth is that support for the group is state-wide and not isolated to the agriculture community in Lincoln County; membership includes bankers, real-estate interests and citizens across a spectrum of occupations. They are concerned about the future of irrigated farming, land-use policy, cost-effective use of property/occupation taxes and our long-range management of our groundwater resources in southwest Nebraska.

NCORPE is a government “land-grab” in Lincoln County by four Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) with the aid of the state of Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources. LCP’s purpose is to counter the groundwater, tax-base and economic activity “GRAB” by special- interest, many of them being from Senator Dan Hughes district, that occurred when NCORPE was created. To make it clear, LCP understands the present need for the use of Lincoln County’s groundwater for augmentation of the Republican and Platte Rivers. We are willing to forfeit our natural resource to bail out the entire state to settle a legal dispute over surface (river) water with Kansas. What we do seek is fairness and common sense; our purpose is to return 30 square miles (19,500 acres) of farmland back into the hands of productive tax-paying private ownership.

Hughes continues to claim falsely that government usage of groundwater separated from land ownership would set a bad precedent. He has ignored factual evidence presented to him of state statutes and past court cases that prove that existing law allows separating land ownership from groundwater usage by government entities and private individuals; one tool available is the use of deed reservations. LCP does not seek legal action; its wish is for local elected NRD boards to follow existing law. In America, the last resort for relief of injustice is the court system. We have always been willing to work with Hughes, his fellow senators and the NRDs to avoid legal action. Legal action is not a threat, it is always a reality, when one side refuses to work with the other.

Hughes is correct; initially loss of Lincoln County’s property tax base was a concern when NCORPE was proposed. The NRDs involved agreed, at that time, to pay those taxes. Over the past five years the situation has changed, besides NCORPE reneging on paying those taxes, we have observed gross mismanagement of the land involved in NCORPE; the land is infested with kochia (tumble weeds), millions of tax-dollars have been unnecessarily wasted on wages, fencing, groundwater dispute settlements, and unsuccessful native grass seeding projects. Most importantly, originally local citizens accepted the mistruth that the land could not be sold to private ownership; we now know the truth.

Sen. Hughes insulted the citizens involved in LCP by claiming the members are scheming to “land grab” the NCORPE land for their own greedy free market purposes. Actually we hope that many individuals will bid on the land when it becomes available. The more bidders the higher the price it will bring to aid taxpayer relief of the debt on NCORPE. We invite Senator Hughes, a large landowner known for grabbing a few acres now and then himself, when available on the market, to join in the bidding for the NCORPE land, we would love for him to become a property tax payer in Lincoln County.

“Landowners with a Common Purpose” goal is centered around promoting honest, and efficient local government.

We will not go away until we achieve that purpose. We support legislation presented by Senator Groene, who represents Lincoln County and we urge Sen. Hughes to look past his personal interest, and work with him and us to assure sustainable groundwater usage for future generations of southwest Nebraska residents so they too can continue be part of the “most productive and reliable agriculture areas in the State of Nebraska”.

Mick Margritz

Hershey, Neb.

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