This section shall apply notwithstanding any other provision of the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act.
(1) If a river basin as described in subdivision (2)(a) of section 2-1504 includes three or more natural resources districts that, pursuant to subdivision (1)(a) of section 46-715, have been or are required to develop an integrated management plan for all or substantially all (eighty-five percent) of the district, such natural resources districts shall, jointly with the department and the natural resources districts within the same basin, develop and adopt a basin-wide plan for the areas of a basin, subbasin, or reach determined by the department to have hydrologically connected water supplies, except that any natural resources district that has developed and implemented a basin-wide plan pursuant to subsection (5) of section 46-715 shall not be affected by this section. If deemed appropriate by the department and the affected natural resources districts, the basin-wide plan may combine two or more river basins.
(2) An integrated management plan developed under subdivision (1)(a) or (b) of section 46-715 shall ensure such integrated management plan is consistent with any basin-wide plan developed pursuant to this section. However, an integrated management plan may implement additional incentive programs or controls pursuant to section 46-739 if the programs and controls are consistent with the basin-wide plan.
(3) A basin-wide plan shall be completed, adopted, and take effect within three years after April 17, 2014, unless the department and the natural resources districts jointly agree to an extension of not more than an additional two years.
(4) A basin-wide plan shall (a) have clear goals and objectives with a purpose of sustaining a balance between water uses and water supplies so that the economic viability, social and environmental health, safety, and welfare of the river basin, subbasin, or reach can be achieved and maintained for both the near term and the long term, (b) ensure that compliance with any interstate compact or decree or other formal state contract or agreement or applicable state or federal law is maintained, and (c) set forth a timeline to meet the goals and objectives as required under this subdivision, but in no case shall a timeline exceed thirty years after April 17, 2014.
(5)(a) A basin-wide plan developed under this section shall utilize the best generally-accepted methodologies and available information, data, and science to evaluate the effect of existing uses of hydrologically connected water on existing surface water and ground water users. The plan shall include a process to gather and evaluate data, information, and methodologies to increase understanding of the surface water and hydrologically connected ground water system within the basin, subbasin, or reach and test the validity of the conclusions, information, and assumptions upon which the plan is based.
(b) A basin-wide plan developed under this section shall include a schedule indicating the end date by which the stated goals and objectives are to be achieved and the management actions to be taken to achieve the goals and objectives. To ensure that reasonable progress is being made toward achieving the final goals and objectives of the plan, the schedule shall also include measurable hydrologic objectives and intermediate dates by which the objectives are expected to be met and monitoring plans to measure the extent to which the objectives are being achieved. Such intermediate objectives shall be established in a manner that, if achieved on schedule, will provide a reasonable expectation that the goals of the plan will be achieved by the established end date.
(c) A basin-wide plan shall be developed using a consultation and collaboration process involving representatives from irrigation districts, reclamation districts, public power and irrigation districts, mutual irrigation companies, canal companies, ground water users, range livestock owners, the Game and Parks Commission, and municipalities that rely on water from within the affected area and that, after being notified of the commencement of the plan development process, indicate in writing their desire to become an official participant in such process. The department and affected natural resources districts shall involve official participants in formulating, evaluating, and recommending plans and management actions and work to reach an agreement among all official participants involved in a basin-wide plan. In addition, the department or the affected natural resources districts may include designated representatives of other stakeholders. If agreement is reached by all parties involved in such consultation and collaboration process, the department and the affected natural resources districts shall adopt the agreed-upon basin-wide plan. If agreement cannot be reached by all parties involved, the basin-wide plan shall be developed and adopted by the department and the affected natural resources districts or by the Interrelated Water Review Board pursuant to section 46-719.
(d) Within five years after the adoption of the basin-wide plan, and every five years thereafter, the department and affected natural resources districts shall conduct a technical analysis of the actions taken in a river basin to determine the progress towards meeting the goals and objectives of the plan. The analysis shall include an examination of (i) available supplies, current uses, and changes in long-term water availability, (ii) the effects of conservation practices and natural causes, including, but not limited to, drought, and (iii) the effects of the plan in meeting the goal of sustaining a balance between water uses and water supplies. The analysis shall determine if changes or modifications to the basin-wide plan are needed to meet the goals and objectives pursuant to subdivision (4)(a) of this section. The department and affected natural resources districts shall present the results of the analysis and any recommended modifications to the plan at a public meeting and shall provide for at least a thirty-day public comment period before holding a public hearing on the recommended modifications. The department shall submit a report to the Legislature of the results of this analysis and the progress made under the basin-wide plan. The report shall be submitted electronically. Any official participant or stakeholder may submit comments to the department and affected natural resources districts on the final basin-wide plan adopted by the department and affected natural resources districts, which shall be made a part of the report to the Legislature.
(e) Before adoption of a basin-wide plan, the department and affected natural resources districts shall schedule at least one public hearing to take testimony on the proposed plan. Any such hearings shall be held in reasonable proximity to the area affected by the plan. Notice of hearings shall be published as provided in section 46-743. All interested persons may appear at any hearings and present testimony or provide other evidence relevant to the issues under consideration. Within sixty days after the final hearing, the department and affected natural resources districts shall jointly determine whether to adopt the plan.
(f) The department and the affected natural resources districts may utilize, when necessary, the Interrelated Water Review Board process provided in section 46-719 for disputes arising from developing, implementing, and enforcing a basin-wide plan developed under this section.