(Scottsbluff) At the September Board meeting, the North Platte Natural Resources District (NPNRD) Board of Directors passed the budget for Fiscal Year 2019 with notable changes, including a reduction in spending by nearly $400,000 and a reduction in property tax asking of nearly $500,000.  Over the past two years, the North Platte NRD Directors have approved a reduction of over $1 million in spending.  These reductions are coming primarily from water management.

“We recognize the public’s concern about property tax burdens and further recognize the Nebraska Legislature’s resistance to extending our budget authority for water management in fully and over appropriated NRDs across the state.  With those things in mind, we had to make some significant changes to our spending priorities.  Make no mistake, these reductions are not surgical, there are steep cuts to several of our programs and projects,” General Manager John Berge explained. 

He continued, “Currently, we are in a very good place to be taking these actions, given the outcomes of the first increment of the Integrated Management Plan and Basin Wide Plan. With the partnership of our producers, we met and exceeded our obligations to the river, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  Under LB 962, we have to continue to incrementally get back to a fully appropriated status.  Unfortunately, that number is unknown and could dwarf our goals in the first increment considerably.  Given the fiscal realities, we have no choice but to curtail our actions even with that reality looming.”

In July 2004, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was given the authority to designate parts of the state as either fully appropriated or over appropriated by the passing of LB962.  In the North Platte NRD, the North Platte River valley and the Pumpkin Creek basin were declared over appropriated, and the rest of the District was designated as fully appropriated.  As a result of these designations, the District, in cooperation with DNR, developed an Integrated Management Plan (IMP) outlining how the connected resources of surface water and groundwater would be managed together. 

According to recent reviews completed by the DNR, the NPNRD has met and exceeded its goals under the first increment of the District’s IMP, including a return to Post-1997 levels of development and a return of over three times the goal of 8,000 acre-feet of water to the North Platte River.  The District is currently working with stakeholders to develop the second increment of the Plan that will seek to incrementally bring the overappropriated areas of the District to a fully appropriated status.