A special task force would attempt to devise a plan to sustain Nebraska’s water resources under a bill moving into final position for passage.
The legislature has advanced LB 517 to final reading on a 38-0 vote after nearly two hours of debate.
The bill would create the Water Sustainability Project Task Force, a 15-member group to study the resources available for irrigation, drinking water and other uses. The Unicameral’s Natural Resources Committee would appoint 12 of the members with the governor appointing three.
That drew an objection from Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha who insisted that portion of the bill violates the separation of powers and that the legislature should have total control of the task force.
“It should be legislators being educated by all of the experts and, then, us developing policy, setting the course and bringing the bills here next session,” Lathrop told colleagues during floor debate. “And that’s the difference I have with Sen. Carlson; not on the importance. It is critical.”
Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege sponsors LB 517.
Carlson told colleagues the attitude of the state has changed over the last 20 years from one that believed water resources were unlimited to one that knows better. He said the state’s irrigation districts and its Natural Resources Districts have cut back on water use. Still, Carlson says farmers need to know what water will be available to irrigate crops.
Carlson, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, gave a personal pledge to colleagues in his closing.
“And I’m telling you I can lead this task force and we will get something done,” Carlson stated. “And we will come back with a plan that’s meaningful and, hopefully, a plan that you can endorse.”
Under the legislation, $1 million would be appropriated to do research, collect data and produce a final report.
The legislature advances the bill to final consideration on a 38-to-nothing vote.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]