Natural Resources – Unicameral Update

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The Natural Resources Committee advanced bills this session authorizing construction of a South Platte River canal and several water recreation and tourism projects across the state, including a lake project between Omaha and Lincoln.

Water recreation projects

LB1023introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, authorizes the State Parks and Game Commission to oversee construction of marinas at Lake McConaughy and Lake Lewis and Clark, and an event center and lodge at Niobrara State Park.

It also authorizes the state Department of Natural Resources to construct and manage a lake in eastern Nebraska in the Platte River floodplain.

The ministry may buy, sell or lease land and enter into contracts for lake-related construction and management services. It could also enter into agreements with the natural resource districts.

The bill requires the ministry to give preference to contract proposals from a certain not-for-profit corporation and those involving a public-private partnership.

The nonprofit’s board of directors will include at least four directors appointed by the governor with the approval of a majority of the Legislative Assembly. It will also include a member of the Legislative Assembly and a representative of the National Games and Parks Commission, both non-voting members.

LB1023 requires the department to ensure the public has full access to the lake. The land selected for the lake will be owned by the state, and the bill prohibits any private entity from designating any part of the lake for exclusively private use.

It also prohibits the director and employees of the department from having any financial interest, personally or through an immediate family member, in any purchase, sale or rental of real property relating to the construction or development of the lake or in any contract relating to the lake.

A similar prohibition applies to commission members and employees.

LB1023 passed 38 to 6 and took effect immediately.

Channel project

A measure passed 42-4 requires the state to build a canal to divert water from Colorado’s South Platte River to reservoirs in Nebraska under the terms of a 1923 pact.

LB1015, submitted by Hilgers on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts, authorizes the state Department of Natural Resources to develop, construct, manage and operate the Perkins County Canal Project.

It also authorizes the department to use eminent domain to acquire land and resolve any legal disputes arising from the project.

The bill prohibits the director of the department, employees and their immediate family members from having a direct or indirect financial interest in any entity party to a contract or from having a financial interest in the ownership or rental of any property related to the development, construction, management or operation of the project.

The conflict of interest provision also applies to members of the Legislative Assembly and elected officials of the executive branch of state government. The provision relating to executive officers applies while such officers are in office and for two years after their departure.

Omnibus Bill

A bill passed on a 46-0 vote includes provisions for several measures heard by the committee this session.

LB809, introduced by Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, authorizes the State Department of Environment and Energy to use the Drinking Water Facilities Loan Fund to purchase or refinance any municipality’s debt for a public water supply system if the debt was incurred and construction started after July 1, 1993.

The bill also allows the ministry to provide grants and loan forgiveness to certain public water systems and municipalities for drinking water and wastewater projects, including certain water replacement projects. lead service lines.

The bill includes the provisions of LB803, introduced by Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, which expands who is considered an immediate family member to include grandchildren for the purposes of limited hunting licenses issued to eligible landowners and increases the number of licenses from four to eight in the three days immediately preceding the opening day of the deer hunting season with firearms.

Also included are provisions of LB924, introduced by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, which allow first-class cities to apply for grants to cover the cost of demolishing derelict buildings.

Finally, the provisions of LB978, also introduced by Hughes, authorize the State Department of Environment and Energy to assume authority to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into U.S. waters under Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act.

Other measures

Lawmakers voted 45-0 to approve a measure increasing the limit on total compensation for Nebraska’s representative on a Southwest Power Pool committee.

The SPP is a regional transmission organization that manages the electrical grid and electricity market for a 14-state region in the central United States.

LB804, introduced by Sen. Venango Dan Hughes, increases the compensation cap for Nebraska’s designated representative on the SPP state regional committee from $20,000 to $35,000 per year.

It also increases the cap on aggregate board compensation for CPP-related activities from $25,000 to $40,000 per year.

Senators also approved a bill to help farmers adopt practices that protect Nebraska’s soil and water.

Under LB925, introduced by Sen. Tim Gragert of Creighton and passed 42-5, the state Department of Natural Resources will provide technical and legal assistance to a nonprofit volunteer learning community run by agricultural producers to foster skills and share knowledge related to healthy soil management.

The ministry will hire a facilitator and may lease private land for the purpose of establishing demonstration and research farms. The department will also submit an annual report to the governor and the agriculture and natural resources committees of the legislature from 2022 to 2027.

Nebraska may seek to be selected as a regional clean hydrogen hub under another bill introduced by the committee this session.

LB1099, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, creates a task force whose members will be appointed by the governor.

The group will include representatives from manufacturing or industry, agriculture, transport and energy. It may also include a representative from a clean hydrogen manufacturer.

The group’s goal is to write a proposal that could be submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy for Nebraska to be selected as one of four regional clean hydrogen centers authorized under the Federal Investment Act. and infrastructure employment, which Congress passed last year.

The bill authorizes the state Department of Economic Development to contract with private consultants to create the proposal. LB1099 passed a vote of 47-0 and was effective immediately.

Lawmakers also passed a measure intended to give a state agency the ability to respond more quickly to pollution release.

LB1102, introduced by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard and passed 46-0, creates the Nebraska Environmental Response Act.

It authorizes the Director of the State Department of Environment and Energy to issue an order requiring a person responsible for releasing a pollutant to clean it up or take action to do so if that person fails or refuses to to act.

If the state responds to a release, the responsible person is liable to the state for the cleanup costs, which become a lien on any real estate owned by the person that is subject to or affected by the cleanup.

The director can serve an administrative order on those he has reason to believe have broken the law. An order can impose a penalty of up to $5,000 per day per violation.

The director may authorize another responsible person, entity or person to voluntarily remediate site conditions under the Remedial Action Plans Oversight Act in lieu of issuing a cleanup order.

LB1102 also authorizes the director to issue a cease and desist order if he finds that a person has done an act that does or may cause “substantial” harm to the environment.

Finally, the bill requires the state treasurer to transfer $300,000 from the state’s general fund to a new treasury fund that the department will use to pay cleanup costs and collect recovered funds.

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