New state monies allocated for managing Nebraska’s water resources may have gotten approval from the governor this week through adoption of the state budget, but the means to tap into those funds is still working its way through the Legislature. State lawmakers gave first round approval this week to a bill allowing those dollars to be used by giving oversight of those monies to an expanded Natural Resources Commission. The Farm Bureau backed bill advanced, but not without traveling through some rough waters.
The bill (LB 1098) introduced by Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege would expand the existing Natural Resources Commission from 16 to 27 members and put the Commission in charge of a newly created Water Sustainability Fund. The Commission would be tasked with providing guidelines on how nearly $20 million in new state funding for water projects, programs and activities is to be spent. If the bill doesn’t pass, most of the money dedicated to water funding in the budget bills approved by the governor earlier in the week would not be able to be spent.
The bill became mired in debate this week over an amendment offered by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha which would require more planning and regulation of water in the Republican River basin. Nebraska Farm Bureau supports LB 1098, but opposed the Lathrop amendment. After a few hours of debate, lawmakers advanced the measure for second round consideration, but with an understanding that further negotiations would occur to resolve differences on the bill prior to the next round of debate.