Nebraska Revised Statute 61-206

Chapter 61


Department of Natural Resources; jurisdiction; rules and regulations; hearings; orders; powers and duties.

(1) The Department of Natural Resources is given jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to water rights for irrigation, power, or other useful purposes except as such jurisdiction is specifically limited by statute. The department may adopt and promulgate rules and regulations governing matters coming before it. It may refuse to allow any water to be used by claimants until their rights have been determined and made of record. It may request information relative to irrigation and water power works from any county, irrigation, or power officers and from any other persons. It may have hearings on complaints, petitions, or applications in connection with any of such matters. Such hearings shall be had at the time and place designated by the department. The department shall have power to certify official acts, compel attendance of witnesses, take testimony by deposition as in suits at law, and examine books, papers, documents, and records of any county, party, or parties interested in any of the matters mentioned in this section or have such examinations made by its qualified representative and shall make and preserve a true and complete transcript of its proceedings and hearings. If a final decision is made without a hearing, a hearing shall be held at the request of any party to the proceeding if the request is made within thirty days after the decision is rendered. If a hearing is held at the request of one or more parties, the department may require each such requesting party and each person who requests to be made a party to such hearing to pay the proportional share of the cost of such transcript. Upon any hearing, the department shall receive any evidence relevant to the matter under investigation and the burden of proof shall be upon the person making the complaint, petition, and application. After such hearing and investigation, the department shall render a decision in the premises in writing and shall issue such order or orders duly certified as it may deem necessary.

(2) The department shall serve as the official agency of the state in connection with water resources development, soil and water conservation, flood prevention, watershed protection, and flood control.

(3) The department shall:

(a) Offer assistance as appropriate to the supervisors or directors of any subdivision of government with responsibilities in the area of natural resources conservation, development, and use in the carrying out of any of their powers and programs;

(b) Keep the supervisors or directors of each such subdivision informed of the activities and experience of all other such subdivisions and facilitate cooperation and an interchange of advice and experience between such subdivisions;

(c) Coordinate the programs of such subdivisions so far as this may be done by advice and consultation;

(d) Secure the cooperation and assistance of the United States, any of its agencies, and agencies of this state in the work of such subdivisions;

(e) Disseminate information throughout the state concerning the activities and programs of such subdivisions;

(f) Plan, develop, and promote the implementation of a comprehensive program of resource development, conservation, and utilization for the soil and water resources of this state in cooperation with other local, state, and federal agencies and organizations;

(g) When necessary for the proper administration of the functions of the department, rent or lease space outside the State Capitol; and

(h) Assist such local governmental organizations as villages, cities, counties, and natural resources districts in securing, planning, and developing information on flood plains to be used in developing regulations and ordinances on proper use of these flood plains.



  • It is proper to join the Department of Natural Resources as a party to a hearing challenging the validity of the department's administration of water. In re 2007 Appropriations of Niobrara River Waters, 283 Neb. 629, 820 N.W.2d 44 (2012).

  • When relevant to a hearing before the Department of Natural Resources, the issue of abandonment or forfeiture should be heard and decided, regardless of the manner in which the proceeding was initiated. In re 2007 Appropriations of Niobrara River Waters, 283 Neb. 629, 820 N.W.2d 44 (2012).

  • The Department of Natural Resources does not lose jurisdiction to determine the validity of a power district's appropriation right even if an owner of a superior preference right who is challenging the validity of the power district's right has also initiated condemnation proceedings as outlined in section 70-672. In re 2007 Appropriations of Niobrara River Waters, 278 Neb. 137, 768 N.W.2d 420 (2009).

  • The Department of Natural Resources has no independent authority to regulate ground water users or administer ground water rights for the benefit of surface water appropriators. In re Complaint of Central Neb. Pub. Power, 270 Neb. 108, 699 N.W.2d 372 (2005).

  • Even in the absence of statutory authority, an administrative agency has the power to reconsider its own decisions. However, except where the motion to reconsider is one based on newly discovered evidence, the agency's power to reconsider its own order exists only until the aggrieved party files an appeal or the statutory time has expired. A motion to reconsider filed with an administrative agency will not toll the statutory time for seeking judicial review. Where there has been no initial hearing, a motion for a hearing pursuant to this section cannot be considered one for rehearing. City of Lincoln v. Twin Platte NRD, 250 Neb. 452, 551 N.W.2d 6 (1996).

  • Department of Water Resources has exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate all matters pertaining to water rights. Hickman v. Loup River P. P. Dist., 173 Neb. 428, 113 N.W.2d 617 (1962).

  • Department of Water Resources has exclusive original jurisdiction over application for allowance of water rights. Ainsworth Irr. Dist. v. Harms, 170 Neb. 228, 102 N.W.2d 429 (1960).

  • Department has jurisdiction over cancellation of water rights. State v. Nielsen, 163 Neb. 372, 79 N.W.2d 721 (1956).

  • Department cannot by rule extend time allowed to apply water to a beneficial use. North Loup River P. P. & I. Dist. v. Loup River P. P. Dist., 162 Neb. 22, 74 N.W.2d 863 (1956).

  • Under former law, appeal from decision refusing to cancel water rights on ground of nonuser may be properly taken to district court instead of directly to Supreme Court. State v. Oliver Bros., 119 Neb. 302, 228 N.W. 864 (1930).