Natural Resources Commission talks funding for projects


Ag projects around the state rely on one fund that could change, and on Wednesday, members of the Nebraska Natural Resources District met to discuss funding and other possible projects. A few items on the agenda included the Soil and Water Conservation Program, the Small Watersheds Flood Control Fund and the Water Sustainability Fund.

The main topic of Wednesday’s meeting was the Water Sustainability Fund. This fund was established 4 years ago in an effort to preserve Nebraska’s water quantity and quality through presented projects.

"Some are putting in small dams. They're also doing a lot of studies of the underground aquifer in their region so they can better utilize the waters that we currently have. There's a wide variety of project,” said Don Batie of the Natural Resources Commission..

Batie said the commission has approved $41 million in projects over the last three funding cycles.

"Probably the biggest application, especially in this region, the city of Hastings is doing a major project on their municipal water supply. They've got an issue with nitrates and also uranium getting into the city water system,” said Batie.

That project is known as the Aquifer Storage and Restoration Project. However, Batie said future projects like this might take a hit because of the current budget short fall in the Unicameral.

"The governor is recommending a fairly large cut to the water sustainability fund, approximately 4 million dollars over the next two years,” said Batie.

Batie said the NRC has proposed a $2-2.5 million cut instead in order to have the funds for large projects.

"The natural resources commission on the water sustainability fund has been very cognizant that the money we have is tax payer money and so we've been very frugal with it and only been approving projects that are high quality,” said Batie.

Batie said the NRC has given their testimony to the appropriations committee, and as they wait for decisions from the government, they will still be accepting project ideas. The next round of project applications will be this June and to submit a project plan contact the State Department of Natural Resources.

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