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Policy Alert: Status of Nebraska’s Statewide Weather Monitoring System (MESONET)

On the legislative website for LB401, the written comments need to be made by Monday, March 13, by 12:00 noon to be in the hearing record, as you finish, check box to include in hearing record.

If writing to individual senators, please use that same due date and put your name, address, phone, email and your district if you know it.

Due to a series of funding shortfalls, unintended or otherwise, what was once Nebraska’s premier weather monitoring system has been forced to reduce the number of sites. That means less “location resolution” detail for several areas of the state. As the attached Lincoln Journal Star editorial notes, there are several users who are served by this network of comprehensive and real-time weather data including farmers and ranchers, emergency weather alert systems, firefighters, school officials, and the like. But also, high resolution weather data is critical to many aspects of climate science—the Nebraska-developed National Drought Monitor is a case in point. That’s why Nebraska’s Second Legislative House (we the people) need to have our voices heard loud and clear when the public hearing for LB401 is held March 14th before the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. The bill specifies emergency funding of $550,000 per year for two years to keep the MESONET system from further deterioration. While testimony in person is valuable, written testimony submitted prior to the hearing is also entered into the public record. Additionally, personally emailing each of the Appropriation Committee members is impactful; and that is why we attach the emails of the committee members.

Lincoln Journal Star Editorial, 2/10: Weather Network Deserves Backing from Legislature

Feb 9, 2023

In the 1980s, Nebraska was a national leader in establishing local weather stations that created a statewide “mesonet,” a network of dozens of small tripods with sensors that gather data on temperature, precipitation, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity, soil temperature and moisture and humidity.

That data then was used to prepare highly localized forecasts, monitor drought and provide pinpoint locations for firefighting and prevention.

That network, which is of great value to the state’s agricultural industry, has deteriorated over the last few decades to the point where, last year, about 25% of the system was shuttered or scheduled for closing. Why? Because of a lack of funding. The barebones Nebraska system costs about $445,000 a year, with most of the funding dedicated to keeping what was last year 60-plus stations operating.

About $75,000 of that funding has come from the state and $100,000 in general funding from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. But the system has not been a priority for the university or senators.

That, however, has changed with LB401 by Sens. Myron Dorn of Adams and Tom Brandt of Plymouth, which would provide $550,000 in emergency funding for the network in each of the next two years via the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.

Introduced at the behest of the Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Farm Bureau, two of the state’s most influential agricultural organizations, the bill would restore and enhance the system, enabling it to mirror many of offerings of Oklahoma's state-of-the-art system that allows farmers and ranchers access to tailored weather forecasts and data packages, drift forecasts for applying pesticides, “cattle comfort” forecasts that assess weather stress and information to help ensure a pasture’s health.

And, for cities and towns, school officials and event presenters can use the system to help determine whether to call off outdoor events.

Given its value to farmers and ranchers, who are the backbone of the state’s biggest industry, and its firefighting and protection benefits, spending LB401’s $1.1 million should be a legislative no-brainer.

As farmer/rancher Ken Herz said: "I do not understand why we are having this conversation at all in Nebraska. If people understood what the (weather network) means, they would be clamoring for support for the system."

Let the clamoring begin with the bill’s hearing – and the weather network's return to prominence with its passage.

Appropriations Committee Members:

During session, the Appropriations Committee meets Monday through Friday.


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