LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday he supports U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns in his questions about whether U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decisions have worsened flooding along the Missouri River this year.
Heineman also fended off criticism that he has been weak in pushing for an alternative to the route proposed for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Johanns, R-Neb., recently said he plans to seek answers about why the corps didn't seek to release water down the Missouri sooner, thus heading off the rising floodwaters that have spilled into lowland cabins and croplands. U.S. Senate candidate Don Stenberg, a Republican, has raised similar questions.
Heineman was asked several questions about flooding Monday during his monthly call-in radio show, and said “there does need to be an investigation at some point” of the corps' management of the record-high flows.
“I'm glad Sen. Johanns is going to get to the bottom of that issue,” Heineman said.
He added that his focus has been on protecting homes, farms and businesses.
Several callers on Monday expressed concern about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would cross the groundwater-rich Nebraska Sand Hills.
Johanns has been among those pressing for a route that bypasses the Sand Hills and the underlying Ogallala Aquifer, but a caller from Lincoln said he was disappointed Heineman hasn't take a “strong stand” against the route.
Heineman said that he had sent a letter last fall to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing his concern about the route, but that only Clinton or President Barack Obama can stop the pipeline.
“This is a federal, regulatory decision. I don't get to make it as governor,” he said.
A later caller pointed out — as did U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., last week — that a federal memo has indicated that Nebraska officials have “siting authority” over such pipelines.
Heineman responded that there's “some doubt” about whether Nebraska can pass legislation now to affect the Keystone XL route.
A federal decision on whether to approve the pipeline is expected before the end of the year. The Legislature does not meet again until January.
A group of state lawmakers urged a delay in that decision so Nebraska can decide whether additional regulation of pipeline projects is needed.
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