By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican Co-Publisher
One of the primary cornerstones in the creation of natural resources districts (NRDs) in Nebraska centered on keeping control at the local level. It only made sense to have locally-elected board members making decisions based on the needs and desires of its own district.
But today, the idea that local people know their needs far better than anyone else could well be in jeopardy.
Interim study hearings are being held by state senators this week to gather input on Legislative Resolution 181. The study is looking at the feasibility and benefits(?) of restructuring natural resources districts.
According to the resolution passed earlier this year, “the study shall focus on the advantages of having a natural resources district encompass the entirety of a watershed, water basin, river or other specific area of the state.”
But if you read between the lines, the resolution wants to look at how the local control of NRDs can be eroded.
Frankly, I don’t know of ANY “advantage” to giving up ANY local control in ANY situation.
What the resolution suggests is that all three of the NRD districts in the Republican River Basin become one. The same would be true for the rest of the river basins in the state.
A look across the Republican Basin and its three NRD districts show many different interests in each district.
The Upper Republican NRD covers an area that mostly relies on groundwater irrigation. The Middle and Lower Republican NRDs cover areas that are dependent on both groundwater and surface water irrigation.
Although all three are located in the same river basin, each district has its own unique needs and differences that must be addressed. Just look at rainfall, for instance.
The LRNRD receives far more annual rainfall than the URNRD. As a result, irrigation allocations are different. By stripping away local control, one decision has to fit all, regardless of the impact or the dissension.
In my opinion, this move is nothing more than an attempt by the state to grab more authority. It’s a lot easier to shove something down one entity’s throat than three, especially if you create in-fighting amongst members of the single entity.
The state did a pretty good job of pitting Republican Basin NRDs against each other when they first pushed for new regulations to keep the state in compliance with Kansas on Republican River flows.
Fortunately, these NRDs have recognized they have to work together, as well as represent their individual districts’ needs, to keep the state from forcing more regulations down their throats a second time.
Nebraska’s metropolitan senators do not understand the positive impact that irrigation makes on this state. Rather than trying to find solutions, they just want to eliminate the problem by shutting down irrigation, not only in this basin but eventually across the state.
Eroding local control by combining respective NRDs into one basin-wide entity cannot be allowed to happen. Our livelihoods depend on it. That’s why each of us must get involved to insure that control of our own destiny remains with us, not the state or some legislative body that doesn’t understand the needs of our region.