This committee first met in the summer and this, their second meeting, took half a day. There were only three outside presenters, the first being Senator Cramer who joined via computer. He spoke of WOTUS issues and was happy that EPA folks had come out to visit North Dakota to learn firsthand what is happening. Then the new and first director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Andrea Travnicek – she pronounces it as “Travineck” in case you ever speak to her ( hey, it worked for Brett Favre ) – spoke to the committee about keeping it as local as possible. This means she is hoping that Water Resource Districts (WRDs) can keep their authorities in drainage matters rather than having her department clean up the messes. Forces behind the failed bill that were looking to give more responsibilities to the DWR are seemingly being thwarted by this message. It may even be that WRDs may recapture some of the muscle that has been taken away during the last few legislative sessions. Or not. At any rate, the committee discussed at length how they could accomplish one of their goals for the interim by melding the two different sections of code that conflict and cause some confusion in the water world of North Dakota. A remedy for this had been submitted in an August letter by a water attorney to the committee members, but Chairman Luick thought it incumbent upon him to have the committee go through 20 some points one by one so that the Legislative Council attorney, who was present, could put their ideas into bill form for consideration during the next meeting.
Then DWR economist Dr. Duane Pool explained for the second meeting in a row how they do cost benefit analyses of drain projects. I understood it better this time. He answered several questions and his contributions will undoubtedly be valuable to the committee in terms of making assessments fairer. Much was said about how it is the intent of the committee to harmonize (my word) the process of drain tile permitting and all of the parties involved. There is recognition of the divisiveness of water and the fact that there is almost never unanimous agreement on assessment or fairness when landowners have to pay. There was also frank acknowledgement that this process they have begun may well take several years. There were also some speeches indicating that some thought that current WRD practices are fine, but also they knew that not all WRDs are operated on the same plane or level. They mentioned meeting again sometime in February.
At this point, the conference committee discussion on how to reduce property tax and income tax appears to have a tentative solution.Senate...