U.S. Water News Online
KEARNEY, Neb. -- The state's water regulators are trying to
come up with ways to provide millions of dollars in incentives to
farmers to retire cropland from irrigation.
Providing incentives would help reduce water use in Nebraska and
help the state comply with interstate compacts.
But it won't be easy to come up with the roughly $6 million needed
annually to comply with the state's integrated water management law
and Nebraska's compacts with other states, said Gene Clock, the
chairman of the funding subcommittee of the Nebraska Water Policy
Clock told the group's executive committee that the task force's
state legislative and funding requests must focus on regulations.
"Our biggest water problems are in areas that have less ability to
raise funds," said Glock, of Rising City.
He referred to the Republican Basin, a sparsely populated area
that is struggling to meet interstate compact conditions, and the
Platte Basin west of Elm Creek, which has been designated as
The group agreed to follow through with two ways to pay for the
incentives presented by Glock in Kearney, said Ann Bleed, acting
director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.
To come up with the $6 million, the task force proposed the
districts should provide $4 million by using a restored
1-cent-per-$100,000 levy that had been removed from NRD authority
several years ago. State general funds would provide $2 million. DNR
would need $1.5 million more for operations and research related to
More work needs to be done on a third proposal to use part of the
state sales tax on water conservation projects, Bleed said. Long-term
incentive funding would also be used under the proposal.
Members of the subcommittee suggested having the Legislature put
the sales tax issue on the ballot. Glock said the Legislature said it
would not dedicate sales taxes to specific purposes.
Dave Sands, of the Nebraska Land Trust in Lincoln, said the group
understood it would be difficult to get the approval in the
Legislature. He said it is still not known how much money would be
needed for state incentive programs.
"All we know is it will be a big number, with a capital B," Sands
The North Platte natural resources district has asked the state to
help it match federal money for incentives in the Pumpkin Creek
watershed in the southern Panhandle, but it's not clear if the state
The federal money would come from the Natural Resources
Conservation Service program, which would provide one-time payments
to farmers who permanently retire crop acres from irrigation.
The program would pay $300 an acre, with the state and local
entities matching half that, meaning farmers could get $450 per acre.
The North Platte NRD has set aside $187,500 for half of the local
match and has asked the state to provide the other half.
State Sen. Ed Schrock said the state would not be able to pay to
retire the acres. Schrock said he would probably agree to have
one-time payments to permanently retire acres, but not annual
He said some legislators may criticize any calls to match
"No doubt, some areas of the state are overdeveloped, and we're
paying the price for it," Schrock said.
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