The Nebraska Supreme Court recently confirmed the authority of a natural resources district to impose groundwater management requirements and levy penalties on a landowner. The Supreme Court said the Lower Loup Natural Resources District had authority to impose sanctions on Robert J. Prokop of Wilber, who owns land in Nance County.
NRD General Manager Russell Callan said that Prokop failed to provide annual reports required in the LLNRD’s Groundwater Management Area 28 in 2015 and 2016. That area is south of the Loup River from just east of Palmer to south of Columbus and is under additional management requirements due to high nitrate levels in groundwater. The annual reports allow LLNRD to see that goals relating to groundwater quality and quantity are met.
At their June 29, 2017 meeting, the LLNRD Board of Directors voted to suspend Mr. Prokop’s use of all groundwater irrigation wells for four years. The Board also required that Prokop submit the annual reports for 2015 and 2016, and submit annual reports on a timely basis for all subsequent crop years.
Prokop appealed to the District Court which found in favor of the LLNRD, but modified the penalty from a 4-year suspension to 1 year. Prokop appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court agreed the LLNRD could restrict a groundwater user’s ability to irrigate, it upheld the District Court’s authority to modify the penalty imposed.
Callan said, “the Lower Loup Natural Resources District takes its role in the management of groundwater quality and quantity seriously.” He said “the Supreme Court decision affirms that the NRD can make decisions and impose penalties to ensure we have quality groundwater available for future generations.”