(402) 476-1528 smerritt@capitolmg.com

The following emailed testimony was sent January 31, 2018:

Appropriations Committee
Senator John Stinner – Chair
Room #1004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

VIA EMAIL: jstinner@leg.ne.gov; kbolz@leg.ne.gov; rclements@leg.ne.gov; rhilkemann@leg.ne.gov;
jkuehn@leg.ne.gov; mmcdonnell@leg.ne.gov; tvargas@leg.ne.gov; dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov;
awishart@leg.ne.gov

RE: LB 944 and LB 945; Funding for the Department of Natural Resources

Senator Stinner and Members of the Appropriations Committee:

I write on behalf of the Nebraska Water Resources Association (“NWRA”) in support of funding for the Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), the Water Resources Cash Fund (“WRCF”) and the Water Sustainability Fund (“WSF”).

NWRA is a nonprofit alliance of state agencies and political subdivisions responsible for the regulation of water resources, private entitites, and  professionals dedicated to the development and implementation of sound water policy on a statewide and national level. Founded in 1944, NWRA is led by a 24-member board of directors representing surface water and ground water irrigation, hydropower, municipal and industrial users, and professional, conservation, recreation, education, and financial institutions. NWRA is a diverse but unified voice to government policy makers and the public on water
policy issues.

NWRA’s members understand the challenges of balancing the state budget, and recognize the need to accept a fair share of reduced allocations for DNR relative to other state agencies. Because of the importance of water resources to the ag economy and the local tax base throughout rural Nebraska, it is imperative that the WRCF and the WSF continue to be funded to the maximum extent practicable.

Originally created in 2007, the WRCF has funded a number of compliance measures required under the Republican River Compact and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan. Since the enactment of the WRCF, DNR has funded a number of projects through cooperative agreements with Natural Resources Districts (“NRDs”), and has multiplied the effect of the WRCF by requiring matching funds from federal and local sources, including from occupation taxes levied by NRDs.

The WSF has awarded funding for over $34,563,447 in projects since 2015. WSF funds are awarded as part of a rigorous, competitive application process. This process ensures that only projects with a demonstrated need and stakeholder support are funded.

On behalf of NWRA, I welcome any questions the Committee may have on funding for the WRCF and WSF. We look forward to a productive dialogue with our partners in the legislature on the level of funding necessary to continue the implementation of sound water policy in Nebraska.

Best regards,

Vanessa Silke
President – NWRA
Attorney – Baird Holm, LLP

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