|Christensen introduces bill to protect interests of surface water irrigators|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Thursday, 23 January 2014 16:05|
Letter Back Home
By Senator Mark Christensen
The Nebraska Legislature is back in Lincoln for the second regular session of the 103rd Legislature.
In the second year of the biennium, debate on bills carried over from last session start early; that is what the Legislature has been doing this last week as we continue to introduce new bills for this session.
Public hearings on the new bills will begin Jan. 21 and are scheduled to end at the end of February. This being a short session year, 60 legislative days, the session is scheduled to end April 17.
Legislative Bill 762, a bill I introduced, will have its public hearing in the Natural Resources Committee on January 23, at 1:30 p.m. in Lincoln.
LB762 seeks to provide someone to represent surface water interest during the development of integrated management plans, along with requirements for more consistent surface water supplies.
Over the last decade, our water laws have evolved, making some good strides forward in the basin.
But, as we saw during the compact call in 2013, surface water irrigators had their water used for compact compliance without compensation of any kind, while ground water had their full allocations plus carry-forwards.
I believe that is a start of a new precedent in Nebraska, which I do not like. I think, as Nebraskans, we can treat each other better than that by working together and sharing innovative ideas.
This is just one of several bills that I will bring for discussion this year as we seek to find better ways to manage our valuable water resources.
General file debate
We started debate on General File bills last week and are moving at a snail’s pace, having extended debate on several bills.
One of those bills was LB174 introduced last year by Sen. Heath Mello from Omaha, regarding the spilling of manure from cattle trucks on streets and highways surrounding the meat packing district in our largest city.
Currently, the fine for spilling anything on the roadway is a Class IV misdemeanor with a minimum $100 fine.
LB174 would make a separate offense specifically for manure spilled on the streets and highways within a metropolitan class city, with a minimum fine of $250.
Apparently, the cost of washing your truck in Omaha near the businesses where cattle trucks drop off their loads is more than the $100 fine if you spill and are caught.
Those for the bill argued that this is not a sufficient enough penalty for the “bad-actors” to want to wash their trucks. Sen. Chambers wanted to raise the penalty to $550.
Some of the senators against the higher fine related that there aren’t enough wash bays in the area for the amount of truck traffic daily entering and leaving the area. The traffic averages around 150 trucks per day.
It was brought up on the floor that the nearest truck wash has only one bay. If that is true, that is definitely a problem.
My other concern is the percentage of the total amount of spills reported per year (40 to 70) to the yearly truck traffic (approximately 47,000 to 54,000) is less than one percent.
So are we really dealing with “bad-actors” or uncontrollable accidental spills caused excessive shrink by extreme hot temperatures and cold weather freezing and thawing mud balls.
I think I may prefer keeping the first ticket at $100 and increasing the fine for second and third offenses. I plan on finding out more information before the second round of debate.
The senator spent much of his time during his weekly tele-conference Tuesday morning addressing water issues.
Christensen said it’s not acceptable that surface water irrigators have to give up their water for compliance purposes while groundwater users can use their full allocation.
He sees the disparity as unacceptable and plans to introduce additional legislation to address it.
The bill introduction period ended Wednesday, Jan. 22.