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Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

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Home District Column 11/21/2017

November 22nd, 2017

Since area citizens organized and created “Landowners for a Common Purpose” in an effort to encourage the sale of the 30 plus square miles of government owned N-CORPE land in Lincoln County, the prospect of returning the land to taxpaying private ownership is gaining legitimacy and steam.  They have done their homework, have gained a legal opinion from a respected water rights attorney, have acquired an economic study by Nebraska economist Ernie Goss, and have been diligent in attending the board meetings of N-CORPE and of the four NRDs who created the inter-local agreement.

They have effectively debunked the false claims by some NRD officials and their hired attorney who have said that ownership of the groundwater allocation can’t be separated from the land with proof of existing Nebraska groundwater statues and State Supreme court cases; as an example, the 1997 Springer v. Kuhn case.

The starkest evidence in favor of selling the land is an action already taken by the NRDs.  In 2014, due to its isolation from the main body of N-CORPE land, N-CORPE sold 313 acres of previously irrigated land as dry-land by retaining the groundwater rights with the inclusion of the below Grantor’s reservation in the land deed.

“GRANTOR reserves to itself and its successors or assigns all rights to the use of groundwater appurtenant to the Property. It is expressly agreed that GRANTOR shall have the sole and exclusive right to the use of such groundwater, and may convey, sell, or assign the right to the use of such groundwater at its sole discretion. Furthermore, GRANTOR reserves the right of ingress and egress over, across, upon, and below the Property for the purpose of obtaining, monitoring, or storing groundwater. Said rights are hereby reserved unto GRANTOR, its heirs, successors and assigns, forever, or until released by GRANTOR.”

Selling the land will set no new precedents in groundwater rights and to dismiss one scare tactic, it will not suddenly allow the city of Denver to acquire our water.

The common sense reasons to sell the land are plentiful; put the land back on Lincoln County’s tax rolls, gain the local economic benefit of private ownership, pay down the approximately $83 million bond debt and eliminate most of the $1.4 million operating cost of custodial government ownership thus lowering the occupation tax burden of farmers.

Lately another reason has arisen of why the land would be better off in private ownership.  Mismanagement of the land has created an infestation of Kochia, commonly referred to in summertime as Russian thistle and in the winter, better known as tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds from the N-CORPE land have packed into nearby corn fields making them unharvestable, have packed into fence lines and have created rural fire hazards. N-CORPE will have no choice next spring but to spend thousands of tax-dollars to spray agricultural chemicals to control the weed infestation.

None of the N-CORPE land ownership proponents have answered the core question that taxpayers are asking: “if the land can be sold without harming the river augmentation project, tell us then, your reasoning why you persist in government ownership of the land?”

The elected members of the Twin Platte, Lower and Middle Republican NRDs have been very open to listening to the facts presented to them by the citizens involved with “Landowners with a Common Purpose”.  I anticipate they will do “good government” and sell the land.

One last observation: tragic and disrespectful events in our country have made many of us examine our core beliefs. We spend too much time concentrated on the actions of disgruntled and selfish individuals in our country who confuse privileges with rights.  For me, standing for the national anthem and our flag in respect for what they stand for is an amazing privilege and owning a firearm in anticipation of a future need to defend our freedom from the aggressor will always be a right and a responsibility; both actions I consider a civic duty.

The sayings used often around this time of year, “count your blessings” and “thank God for America”, still ring true in our country. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room #1107
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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