U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska officials exceeded their
authority by restricting new irrigation wells within the Upper Big
Blue Natural Resources District, a lawsuit by the district claims.
"The board thinks that the Platte River decision needs to be
within the Platte Basin," John Turnbull, general manager of the
York-based NRD, said.
The district's dispute with the Department of Natural Resources
stems from a preliminary decision by the department in December to
not allow new irrigation wells and new irrigated acres in a portion
of Hamilton County.
Later, a farmer sought a permit to drill a new well between the
Platte and Big Blue rivers. The district, citing the state's stance,
rejected the request. It asked the DNR for a final decision, which
was received recently.
Once the state's restriction was final, the district prepared to
head for the courthouse, Turnbull said.
In documents filed in Lancaster County District Court, the
district says the state exceeded its authority by banning new wells
and irrigation in Big Blue Basin territory.
The collision of authority between the state and the natural
resources district comes as state regulators seek to ease the impact
of groundwater pumping on rivers and streams.
"Now that a suit has been filed, I think that an awful lot of
people will be content to sort of sit and watch and see how this one
plays out," Dave Aiken, a specialist in water law at the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln, said.
The district wants a court to settle the conflict resulting from
regulatory overlap, Turnbull said.
"We've discussed this with the department over a long period of
time, that we didn't think these things should cross river basin
boundaries," he said. "We don't think that statutes allow them to do
Steve Seglin of Lincoln, an attorney for the district's board,
described the lawsuit as one that targets "a very specific legal
Ann Bleed, acting director of the state Department of Natural
Resources, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"At this point, I haven't seen the filing," she said, "and I
really don't have any comment."
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