Water Studies Boosted in Nebraska Legislature

April 29, 2021, 5:03 p.m. ·

Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Studies of security, tourism, and flood protection along Nebraska waterways were boosted in the Nebraska Legislature Thursday.

The studies involve safety and economic development at Lake McConnaughy, near Ogallala in central Nebraska, tourism along the Missouri River around Niobrara in northern Nebraska, and levees for flood control along the Platte River from Columbus to Plattsmouth in eastern Nebraska. Speaker Mike Hilgers talked about the name of the special legislative committee that will oversee the effort.

“It’s the ‘Statewide Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability’ special committee of the Legislature,” Hilgers said.

He called that “a convoluted mouthful, and frankly something only probably a government bureaucrat could love.”

But Hilgers said it could be improved, merely by capitalizing the first ‘and’ and looking at the resulting acronym.

“Then we would have the STAR WARS committee,” he pointed out.

That set off a cosmic storm of mixed memes.

Sen. Rob Clements said he was initially concerned the studies could include the possibility of a dam on the Platte River, which he said would hurt development of lakeside communities in his eastern Nebraska district. Clements thanked the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike McDonnell, for keeping that out of the subjects to be studied.

“It started with a real disturbance in the force. And I think now it has calmed down,” Clements said.

Sen. John Lowe asked McDonnell if he would consider changing the name of the special committee.

“In my mind ‘Star Wars’ is a pretty new movie. It came out when I was in college. But you know I grew up on another tv show and that was Star Trek. Sen. McDonnell, couldn’t you figure out something more like Star Trek for me?” Lowe asked.

McDonnell said he’d consider it.

Sen. Mike Groene questioned the wording of the bill, and what it could lead to. “Too vague, not enough restrictions in here to hold back some senators wanting something really bad and make some bad decisions,” Groene said.

Sen. Mike Moser questioned the cost, and suggested Natural Resources Districts could do the work.

“It’s another study for $2 million. And the Platte River’s going to do what it does. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep. I think we have NRDs that study land use, water use. Let them study it if they want to. I think this is a just another study to put on a shelf somewhere,” Moser said.

But Sen. Bruce Bostelman said he thinks there’s value in studying how to protect infrastructure like bridges and improve access to the river for boaters. Bostelman encouraged his colleagues to vote for the bill.

“And my final words will be, ‘Engage,’ Bostelman added.

Senators then voted 42-2 first round approval for the bill, sending it on the next stage of its legislative journey.