46-713. Department of Natural Resources; hydrologically connected water supplies; evaluation; report; determinations; revaluation; hearing; notice.

(1)(a) By January 1 of each year beginning in 2006 and except as otherwise provided in this section and section 46-720, the Department of Natural Resources shall complete an evaluation of the expected long-term availability of hydrologically connected water supplies for both existing and new surface water uses and existing and new ground water uses in each of the state's river basins and shall issue a report that describes the results of the evaluation. For purposes of the evaluation and the report, a river basin may be divided into two or more subbasins or reaches. A river basin, subbasin, or reach for which an integrated management plan has been or is being developed pursuant to sections 46-715 to 46-717 or pursuant to section 46-719 shall not be evaluated unless it is being reevaluated as provided in subsection (2) of this section. For each river basin, subbasin, or reach evaluated, the report shall describe (i) the nature and extent of use of both surface water and ground water in each river basin, subbasin, or reach, (ii) the geographic area within which the department preliminarily considers surface water and ground water to be hydrologically connected and the criteria used for that determination, and (iii) the extent to which the then-current uses affect available near-term and long-term water supplies. River basins, subbasins, and reaches designated as overappropriated in accordance with subsection (4) of this section shall not be evaluated by the department. The department is not required to perform an annual evaluation for a river basin, subbasin, or reach during the four years following a status change in such river basin, subbasin, or reach under subsection (12) of section 46-714.

(b) Based on the information reviewed in the evaluation process, the department shall arrive at a preliminary conclusion for each river basin, subbasin, and reach evaluated as to whether such river basin, subbasin, or reach presently is fully appropriated without the initiation of additional uses. The department shall also determine if and how such preliminary conclusion would change if no additional legal constraints were imposed on future development of hydrologically connected surface water and ground water and reasonable projections are made about the extent and location of future development in such river basin, subbasin, or reach.

(c) In addition to the conclusion about whether a river basin, subbasin, or reach is fully appropriated, the department shall include in the report, for informational purposes only, a summary of relevant data provided by any interested party concerning the social, economic, and environmental impacts of additional hydrologically connected surface water and ground water uses on resources that are dependent on streamflow or ground water levels but are not protected by appropriations or regulations.

(d) In preparing the report, the department shall rely on the best scientific data, information, and methodologies readily available to ensure that the conclusions and results contained in the report are reliable. In its report, the department shall provide sufficient documentation to allow these data, information, methodologies, and conclusions to be independently replicated and assessed. Upon request by the department, state agencies, natural resources districts, irrigation districts, reclamation districts, public power and irrigation districts, mutual irrigation companies, canal companies, municipalities, and other water users and stakeholders shall provide relevant data and information in their possession. The Department of Natural Resources shall specify by rule and regulation the types of scientific data and other information that will be considered for making the preliminary determinations required by this section.

(2)(a) The department shall complete a reevaluation of a river basin, subbasin, or reach for which an integrated management plan has been or is being prepared if the department has reason to believe that a reevaluation might lead to a different determination about whether such river basin, subbasin, or reach is fully appropriated or overappropriated. A decision to reevaluate may be reached by the department on its own or in response to a petition filed with the department by any interested person. To be considered sufficient to justify a reevaluation, a petition shall be accompanied by supporting information showing that (i) new scientific data or other information relevant to the determination of whether the river basin, subbasin, or reach is fully appropriated or overappropriated has become available since the last evaluation of such river basin, subbasin, or reach, (ii) the department relied on incorrect or incomplete information when the river basin, subbasin, or reach was last evaluated, or (iii) the department erred in its interpretation or application of the information available when the river basin, subbasin, or reach was last evaluated. If a petition determined by the department to be sufficient is filed before July 1 of any year, the reevaluation of the river basin, subbasin, or reach involved shall be included in the next annual report prepared in accordance with subsection (1) of this section. If any such petition is filed on or after July 1 of any year, the department may defer the reevaluation of the river basin, subbasin, or reach involved until the second annual report after such filing.

(b) If the reevaluation results in a different determination by the department, then (i) the department shall notify, by certified mail, the affected natural resources districts and any irrigation district, public power and irrigation district, mutual irrigation company, canal company, or municipality that relies on water from the affected river basin, subbasin, or reach of the preliminary change in the determination and (ii) the department shall hold one or more public hearings not more than ninety days after the publication of the notice required in subdivision (b)(i) of this subsection. Notice of the hearings shall be provided in the same manner as the notice required in subsection (1) of section 46-714. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and present written or oral testimony and evidence concerning the appropriation status of the river basin, subbasin, or reach.

(c) Within thirty days after the final hearing under subdivision (b) of this subsection, the department shall notify the appropriate natural resources districts of the department's final determination with respect to the appropriation status of the river basin, subbasin, or reach.

(3) A river basin, subbasin, or reach shall be deemed fully appropriated if the department determines based upon its evaluation conducted pursuant to subsection (1) of this section and information presented at the hearing pursuant to subsection (4) of section 46-714 that then-current uses of hydrologically connected surface water and ground water in the river basin, subbasin, or reach cause or will in the reasonably foreseeable future cause (a) the surface water supply to be insufficient to sustain over the long term the beneficial or useful purposes for which existing natural-flow or storage appropriations were granted and the beneficial or useful purposes for which, at the time of approval, any existing instream appropriation was granted, (b) the streamflow to be insufficient to sustain over the long term the beneficial uses from wells constructed in aquifers dependent on recharge from the river or stream involved, or (c) reduction in the flow of a river or stream sufficient to cause noncompliance by Nebraska with an interstate compact or decree, other formal state contract or agreement, or applicable state or federal laws.

(4)(a) A river basin, subbasin, or reach shall be deemed overappropriated if, on July 16, 2004, the river basin, subbasin, or reach is subject to an interstate cooperative agreement among three or more states and if, prior to such date, the department has declared a moratorium on the issuance of new surface water appropriations in such river basin, subbasin, or reach and has requested each natural resources district with jurisdiction in the affected area in such river basin, subbasin, or reach either (i) to close or to continue in effect a previously adopted closure of all or part of such river basin, subbasin, or reach to the issuance of additional water well permits in accordance with subdivision (1)(k) of section 46-656.25 as such section existed prior to July 16, 2004, or (ii) to temporarily suspend or to continue in effect a temporary suspension, previously adopted pursuant to section 46-656.28 as such section existed prior to July 16, 2004, on the drilling of new water wells in all or part of such river basin, subbasin, or reach.

(b) Within sixty days after July 16, 2004, the department shall designate which river basins, subbasins, or reaches are overappropriated. The designation shall include a description of the geographic area within which the department has determined that surface water and ground water are hydrologically connected and the criteria used to make such determination.

Source:Laws 2004, LB 962, § 53; Laws 2006, LB 1226, § 23; Laws 2009, LB54, § 1; Laws 2009, LB483, § 3.

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