Nebraska Revised Statute 46-229.02
Appropriations; preliminary determination of nonuse; notice; order of cancellation; procedure.
(1) If, based upon the results of a field investigation or upon information, however obtained, the department makes preliminary determinations (a) that an appropriation has not been used, in whole or in part, for a beneficial or useful purpose or having been so used at one time has ceased to be used, in whole or in part, for such purpose for more than five consecutive years and (b) that the department knows of no reason that constitutes sufficient cause, as provided in section 46-229.04, for such nonuse or that such nonuse has continued beyond the additional time permitted because of the existence of any applicable sufficient cause, the department shall serve notice of such preliminary determinations upon the owner or owners of such appropriation and upon any other person who is an owner of the land under such appropriation. Such notice shall contain the information required by section 46-229.03, shall be provided in the manner required by such section, and shall be posted on the department's web site. Each owner of the appropriation and any owner of the land under such appropriation shall have thirty days after the mailing or last publication, as applicable, of such notice to notify the department, on a form provided by the department, that he or she contests the department's preliminary determination of nonuse or the department's preliminary determination of the absence of sufficient cause for such nonuse. Such notification shall indicate the reason or reasons the owner is contesting the department's preliminary determination and include any information the owner believes is relevant to the issues of nonuse or sufficient cause for such nonuse.
(2) If no owner of the appropriation or of the land under the appropriation provides notification to the department in accordance with subsection (1) of this section, the director may issue an order canceling the appropriation in whole or in part. The extent of such cancellation shall not exceed the extent described in the department's notice to the owner or owners in accordance with subsection (1) of this section. A copy of the order canceling the appropriation, or part thereof, shall be posted on the department's web site and shall be provided to the owner or owners of the appropriation and to any other owner of the land under the appropriation in the same manner that notices are to be given in accordance with subsection (2), (3), or (4) of section 46-229.03, as applicable. No cancellation under this subsection shall prohibit an irrigation district, a reclamation district, a public power and irrigation district, or a mutual irrigation company or canal company from asserting the rights provided by subsections (5) and (6) of section 46-229.04.
(3) If an owner of the appropriation provides notification to the department in accordance with subsection (1) of this section, the department shall review the owner's stated reasons for contesting the department's preliminary determination and any other information provided with the owner's notice. If the department determines that the owner has provided sufficient information for the department to conclude that the appropriation should not be canceled, in whole or in part, it shall inform the owners of the appropriation, and any other owners of the land under the appropriation, of such determination.
(4) If the department determines that an owner has provided sufficient information to support the conclusion that the appropriation should be canceled only in part and if (a) the owner or owners filing the notice of contest agree in writing to such cancellation in part and (b) such owner or owners are the only known owners of the appropriation and of the land under the appropriation, the director may issue an order canceling the appropriation to the extent agreed to by the owner or owners and shall provide a copy of such order to such owner or owners.
(5) If the department determines that subsections (2), (3), and (4) of this section do not apply, it shall schedule and conduct a hearing on the cancellation of the appropriation in whole or in part. Notice of the hearing shall be provided to the owner or owners who filed notices with the department pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, to any other owner of the appropriation known to the department, and to any other owner of the land under the appropriation. The notice shall be posted on the department's web site and shall be served or published, as applicable, in the manner provided in subsection (2), (3), or (4) of section 46-229.03, as applicable.
(6) Following a hearing conducted in accordance with subsection (5) of this section and subsection (1) of section 46-229.04, the director shall render a decision by order. A copy of the order shall be provided to the owner or owners of the appropriation and to any other person who is an owner of the land under the appropriation. The copy of the order shall be posted on the department's web site and shall be served or published, as applicable, in the same manner that notices are to be given in accordance with subsection (2), (3), or (4) of section 46-229.03, as applicable, except that if publication is required, it shall be sufficient for the department to publish notice that an order has been issued. Any such published notice shall identify the land or lands involved and shall provide the address and telephone number that may be used to obtain a copy of the order.
(7) A water appropriation that has not been perfected pursuant to the terms of the permit may be canceled by the department without complying with sections 46-229.01 to 46-229.04 if the owner of such appropriation fails to comply with any of the conditions of approval in the permit, except that this subsection does not apply to appropriations to which subsection (2) of section 46-237 applies.
Under former law, a notice of hearing on the adjudication of a water right that states the place and time of the hearing, names and describes the appropriation that is the subject of the hearing, states that the Department of Natural Resources' records indicate that the land approved for irrigation under the appropriation has not been irrigated for more than 3 consecutive years, states that the hearing will be held pursuant to sections 46-229 to 46-229.05, as amended, states that all interested persons shall appear at the hearing and show cause why the appropriation or part of the appropriation should not be canceled or annulled, states that the appropriation may be canceled if no one appears at the hearing, includes the address, post office box number, telephone number, and fax number of the Department of Natural Resources, and attaches copies of sections 46-229 to 46-229.05 provides adequate notice of the issues to be taken up at the hearing and contains the information required under this section. In re Water Appropriation A-4924, 267 Neb. 430, 674 N.W.2d 788 (2004).
Nonuse for over three years terminates the user's rights by statutory cancellation proceedings. Northport Irr. Dist. v. Jess, 215 Neb. 152, 337 N.W.2d 733 (1983).
The statutory forfeiture provisions of the section apply to vested rights in water appropriations established prior to April 4, 1895. In re Water Appropriation Nos. 442A, 461, 462, and 485, 210 Neb. 161, 313 N.W.2d 271 (1981).
An unexcused nonuse of water appropriation rights by a predecessor in title binds the successor in title. Hostetler v. State, 203 Neb. 776, 280 N.W.2d 75 (1979).
Procedure for cancellation of water rights is not exclusive. State v. Nielsen, 163 Neb. 372, 79 N.W.2d 721 (1956).
Under former law, Department of Roads and Irrigation could forfeit water right for nonuser for more than three years. State v. Birdwood Irr. Dist., 154 Neb. 52, 46 N.W.2d 884 (1951).