Murphy’s Law #6

January 25, 2017

Yesterday, the House Ag Committee heard testimony on the Public Service Commission elevator bill (HB1126). I had to be hopping in and out of that one to cover some of the Human Services budget hearings – as the largest single budget of our state government it is deemed relevant to try to understand at least at a basic level- and, much more directly relevant, the Quick Take bill (SB2047). That was being heard in House Natural Resources and is chaired by Rep. Todd Porter.
This issue of quick take has been somewhat controversial, especially since a case in northeastern ND brought it to Natural Resource committees in 2015. I served on the Senate side in that committee, and possibly because I had spent 20 years as a township officer and worked a lot on tiling and rural water issues as a Senator, I was put on the conference committee for the quick take bill. So I am somewhat familiar. Right now, quick take is being reformed by having your local water board’s (members appointed by county commissioners) actions approved by a vote of the county commissioners. The current idea in prominence being that the water board members were not elected and that this layer gives some more accountability/oversight to the process. Of course, it will also slow it down to some extent.
Legal drains provide a service that is critical to the success of producers, but also runs up against private land rights to some extent. Some farm advocacy groups are saying this bill does not go far enough (and yet on the face of it one would think they would favor policy that helps farmers produce greater yields) now find themselves slowing the process of achieving that critical drainage. It seems a bit counter-intuitive and a little confusing, which sums up water issues in general. You know the saying, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over”. Read more on the bill here.
Another topic coming up soon is a tiling bill that also needs to strike a balance between water quality and expediting tiling. You will be hearing more about this issue, guaranteed.