Coalition focuses on protecting Nebraska water users

NRDs & NeDNR Coalition Adopts Basin Plan to Protect Water Supplies

The Lower Platte River Basin Coalition, which includes all seven Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in the Loup, Elkhorn, and Lower Platte River Basins, and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) has, after several years of work, adopted and now initiated implementation of a voluntary basin-wide water management plan that sets criteria for managing new water development in the Lower Platte River (basin). The jointly-developed plan implements goals and objectives that work to protect the existing domestic, agricultural, and industrial water uses in the Basin.  The Coalition partners worked to use the best available science to evaluate the balance of supply and demands in the Basin that begins in Nebraska’s water-rich sandhills and ends at the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers, covering more than 25,000 square miles, or nearly one-third of Nebraska.

This unique Basin provides water for irrigation that sustains the area’s agricultural economy, drinking water for more than half of Nebraska’s residents, as well as other important industrial and instream water demands.

“This proactive partnership worked to voluntarily develop a plan for the future conjunctive management of the groundwater and surface water systems in this important river basin,” Russell Callan, General Manager, Lower Loup NRD, said.  “Nebraska’s locally-driven groundwater management system, through NRDs, is a unique and strong approach for our state. This comprehensive basin-wide plan is another example of local and state jurisdictional entities working in partnership to protect all of Nebraska’s water users, protecting lives, Nebraskans’ property and our economic future, Callan said

For more than 45 years, locally-elected NRD boards have successfully worked to address local groundwater quantity and quality management challenges. Water managers have recognized that what occurs in the sandhills of the upper portions of the Loup and Elkhorn Basins impacts the Lower Platte River Basin near Lincoln and Omaha’s water supplies in the lower portion of the Basin. Likewise, changes in a variety of water demands in the lower part of the Basin can impact the upper portion of the Basin. This Basin planning effort improves the collaboration between groundwater and surface water jurisdictions and managers across the whole Basin and establishes a framework for continually assessing impacts and identifying opportunities for more efficient uses of Nebraska’s water. The plan also encourages local NRD and stakeholders to work together with the state to consistently gather and share data, apply technical analyses that will be used for long-term monitoring, and establish benchmarks to maintain water sustainability across the entire Basin.

“The fact that seven locally elected boards with varying local priorities were able to voluntarily sit down with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and develop a plan that works to protect all water uses now and for the future, as a foundation to grow our economy, while also ensuring our most precious natural resource is protected, is a valuable outcome for all water users in the state,” said Jeff Fassett, Director of NeDNR.

Results from the water balance study that was developed by the Coalition indicated that, on an average annual basis, supply in the Basin exceeds the existing demands. Recognizing the opportunity this presents, but also wanting to be always aware of periodic droughts and protective of the long-term sustainability of the Basin’s water supply, the Coalition partners developed a measured, incremental approach to allowing additional new uses. The adopted plan developed targets for allowable development at no more than 10% of the current identifiable long-term average excess waters during the first five-year increment of the plan. It is up to each local NRD board, along with NeDNR, to determine if and how they want to allow for the development of any new groundwater and surface water uses. The plan also lays out a process for annual collection and reporting of important data that will be used to monitor the plan’s implementation. Each member will report to the Coalition annually on any new water uses and their associated streamflow depletions or projects developed to mitigate streamflow depletions.

“While this first increment uses the best science available today, an incremental approach ensures we will continue to use the best available science,” Mike Sousek, General Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, said. “We want Nebraskans to benefit from the available excess water, but we also want to avoid a situation where we exceed the available secure and reliable water supplies. This careful, incremental approach and annual reporting will allow us to continually assess changes, adapt, and adjust as needed to ensure existing users are protected,” Sousek said.

While the long-term historic Basin streamflows highlight the overall positive balance in the Basin, unfortunately, much of the identified usable supplies occurs during the non-peak water use season, or fall and winter months, when demands for the excess water are much less. But to water managers in the Basin, this average excess supply represents an opportunity for implementing more effective management strategies going forward.

“This plan is a proactive approach to address sound water management, which is the number one priority in the world,” said John Winkler, General Manager, Papio-Missouri River NRD.  “By capturing and storing some of the water during the non-peak period, those flows can be retimed for delivery during the peak demand periods, not only helping to meet demands during times of drought or when dry conditions warrant, but also mitigating flood potential during extreme excess flow events,” Winkler said.

Other efforts by the Lower Platte South, Lower Platte North, and Papio-Missouri River NRDs, in partnership with the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), the Lincoln Water System, and NeDNR are looking at opportunities to further address drought periods and when peak demands overlap periods when streamflows are at their lowest.

“The Basin-Wide Plan is really a step forward for everyone in the Basin,” Paul Zillig, General Manager, Lower Platte South NRD, said.  “In conjunction with our own drought mitigation planning, the plan allows for potential upstream development, while protecting existing and future municipal, industrial, and instream water demands downstream.”

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The Lower Platte River Basin Water Management Plan Coalition is a collaborative working arrangement of the seven-member NRDs (Upper Loup, Lower Loup, Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Platte North, Lower Platte South, Papio-Missiouri River) and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, created to adopt, implement and maintain the Basin-wide Water Management Plan.  The Coalition, now entered into their second interlocal cooperative agreement, focuses on water use policies and practices that contribute to the protection of existing surface water and groundwater uses while allowing for future water development. The Coalition provides the flexibility for NRDs to work cooperatively and with NeDNR in ways they would not be able to individually.  To learn more about the Coalition, visit https://lprbc.nebraska.gov 

Lower Elkhorn NRD receives Nebraska Environmental Trust grant for monitoring project

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) recently announced that they will receive $65,720 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Lower Elkhorn Real-Time Monitoring Well Network Telemetry Project” project.  The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its April meeting in Lincoln.  The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year.  Of these, 66 were new applications and 39 are carry-over projects.

The LENRD is committed to the conservation of groundwater and recognizes the significant value a reliable groundwater source has for its constituents.  In an effort to proactively manage and conserve groundwater, the LENRD proposes the Lower Elkhorn Real-Time Monitoring Well Network Telemetry Project.  LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, explains, “The ability to utilize real-time data when making management decisions is necessary for the LENRD to proactively manage the groundwater supply in northeast Nebraska.  This project will result in real-time access to groundwater level data by any individual with internet access.”

The Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA) and the University of Nebraska Conservation and Survey Division (CSD) fully support this effort, and are committed to providing assistance to the LENRD for this project.  This grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust will enable the LENRD to install telemetry equipment on its established groundwater well monitoring network at 45 well sites.  In return, the LENRD will install and maintain all components of the project, including all staff time and travel costs and any subscription fees or web platform development fees.  The LENRD will also purchase 14 replacement transducers.  These transducers have reliably provided data to the LENRD, but require periodic replacement to ensure that accurate data continues to be collected.  ENWRA will purchase and install one telemetry system and purchase two replacement transducers for the nested well site, as well as assisting the LENRD with data processing and evaluation.  CSD will contribute staff time and resources to evaluate well sites and provide a detailed aquifer description.  The partnership between the LENRD, NET, ENWRA, and CSD will result in an innovative method of collecting and disseminating vital groundwater level data to all entities and individuals that can utilize the information when making management decisions.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

Lower Elkhorn NRD office moves to new location May 24th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will soon have a new home.

LENRD Board Chairman, Dennis Schultz, said, “It wasn’t an easy decision to make because of the district’s longtime, strong partnership with Northeast Community College, but the need to be as fiscally responsible as possible is what led the board to approve the purchase of the former Sterling Computer building at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.”

The district will be moving out of its offices in the Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) on the campus of Northeast Community College, which has been its home since the center was constructed 20 years ago.  The office will be closed to the public on Thursday, May 24th and Friday, May 25th as they move to their new location.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The LLC has been a great location for us to grow and expand our programs.  Our lease with the college recently came up for review and the board felt savings to the taxpayer could be realized by relocating.”

Sousek said, “With our increasing workload, this location will allow for future growth.  The new space has ample storage as well as a building for vehicles and equipment on-site.  More importantly, over the next 10 years the district will realize $500,000 in savings just in operation and maintenance costs by making this move.  In the end, the taxpayer will be the real winner with this change."

He continued, “We want to thank Northeast Community College for serving as the district’s home for two decades.  We hope our move provides new opportunities for the college in creating available space at the learning center for other potential partners.”

Sousek said the staff and directors are looking forward to making a smooth transition to the new facility while providing the same high-level of public service to the citizens of the district.  He said, “We plan to be moved in and open for business at our new location on Tuesday, May 29th.”

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Scholarships offered to youth attending 4-H & NRD Camps

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is accepting applications for 4-H & NRD summer camp scholarships from youth throughout the 15-county district. The LENRD will reimburse the winning applicants for their camp registration fee.

Scholarships are available for various 4-H and NRD sponsored camps around the state, including the Nebraska Range Youth Camp, and the Adventure Camp about the Environment (ACE Camp).

4-H scholarship winners must register for the camp of their choice, arrange for their own transportation and pay all fees.  The LENRD will reimburse the registration fee after the scholarship winners send camp attendance verification to the LENRD office.

Any 4-H member who would like to apply for these scholarships should contact their local Extension office for more information and an application form.  All applications must be received by Friday, May 25th.

For more information, and a complete listing of all area camps, visit the University of Nebraska Extension 4-H web site at:  www.4h.unl.edu

ACE Camp

Scholarship Application

Watershed projects bring Nebraska estimated benefits of $80 million per year

Support Soil and Water Stewardship Week - April 29-May 5 – Share Pictures of What Water Means to You

In honor of Soil and Water Stewardship Week’s theme “Watersheds, Our Water, Our Home,” the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are celebrating the watershed projects that benefit Nebraska. Through the 900+ watershed projects the NRDs and NRCS have developed together, over $80 million in average annual damages from flooding and erosion are prevented every year.

These economic numbers are based off the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act benefits for each watershed project NRCS and the NRDs have worked on together since 1954 and indexed up to 2018 dollar values. Before these watershed projects were built, an economic analysis was conducted. These projects were required to reach a cost/benefit ratio threshold high enough to receive funding. This careful planning has resulted in a tremendous return on investment over the past 60 years.

The watershed dams constructed through the Federal Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program are working to protect Nebraskans from flood damage. Watershed Program project results include watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion and sediment control, water supply, improved water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, wetland creation and restoration, and public recreation.

“This partnership between the public, NRCS, NRDs, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality has been vital in Nebraska’s long-term success,” said Dean Edson, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts executive director. “We all work with landowners every day. Without these projects and their willingness to improve their land and prevent potential flooding, Nebraskans could potentially be dealing with flood damage costs on their properties and in their homes every year.”

NRCS and the NRDs work with landowners to install flood control measures like small dams, grade stabilization structures and apply conservation practices such as reduced tillage, terraces and waterways.  These flood prevention and conservation practices work together throughout the watershed to catch and slow runoff from heavy rains preventing damage to infrastructure, homes, cropland and roads. 

Craig Derickson, state conservationist with NRCS said, “The Watershed Program in Nebraska has been a perfect partnership between Federal and State agencies working together to protect natural resources. This year’s watershed theme for Soil and Water Stewardship Week provided a great opportunity to remind Nebraskans of the benefits these watershed structures provide.”

Soil and Water Stewardship Week is April 29th – May 5th, and the NRDs and NRCS are calling on YOU to show us what water means to you! Snap selfies and fun pictures of how you value the water you use. Tweet us @NebraskaNRCS and @NebraskaNRDs. “Like” us on Facebook at Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts and the Lower Elkhorn NRD.

During Soil and Water Conservation Week, the NRDs and NRCS encourage all Nebraskans to spend time outside appreciating our natural resources and especially our “Watersheds, Our Water, Our Home.”

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LENRD promotes Arbor Day with tree sales

In Nebraska, Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in April.  The 146th Anniversary of Arbor Day will be celebrated this Friday, April 27th.

Being the birth state of Arbor Day, it’s only appropriate that the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) promotes tree-planting programs each year.  The LENRD will have tree seedlings available for purchase this Friday in celebration of Arbor Day, at the Maskenthine Lake Recreation Area, north of Stanton.  From Norfolk, the lake is located 10 miles east on highway 275 and then 2 miles south on Ridge Road.  Signs will direct you to the LENRD Tree Distribution Center (approximately 2 miles north of Stanton).  The Center will be open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Arbor Day.  Seedlings can be purchased in bundles of 25 for $22.

LENRD Forester, Pam Bergstrom, said, “Plant a tree to protect your property and the future.  Our parents did it for us, and we should return the favor for future generations.”

Contact Bergstrom at the LENRD office, 402-371-7313, if you have questions about your trees or if you need further assistance.

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Cover Crop Management in a Late Spring By: Dan Gillespie, NRCS No-till Specialist

After a long dry fall of 2017, Old Man Winter held on longer than we are accustomed to this spring.  Whether your purpose for planting a cover crop was for erosion control, soil moisture management, nutrient sequestration, grazing, or nitrogen fixation, the growth we hoped for largely has not fulfilled our expectations.  Many producers who invested the time and money into seeding cover crops are scratching their chins and wondering what they can do for cover crop management in this late spring. 

What sort of options are there for extending the spring growth period to achieve the goal?  The choices range from terminating before planting as you have always done to simply waiting to plant a little later.  In between those choices is an option called “planting green”.

Planting green means planting your cash crop into a cover crop that is still alive and letting the cash and cover crop grow at the same time, for “a period of time”.  The management issue will be deciding how long that “period of time” is.  Optimizing moisture in the soil profile is what you will base your decisions on.

For erosion control it is optimum to grow a cereal rye cover crop to a 14 to 18-inch height.  The plants will have more lignin or carbon in the stem and endure longer into the growing season.  Your goal is to have the cover crop maintain surface cover that can deflect the impact of raindrops on bare soils until crop canopy is achieved.

Soil moisture management with cover crops comes into play in excessive rainfall springs and low areas that are problematic every year.  In either situation, the key is to monitor rainfall received and soil moisture used as the cereal rye can remove a lot of moisture quickly when temperatures warm up and growing conditions are excellent.

If grazing is your goal you may want to consider selecting a shorter season maturity cash crop that allows you to plant a little later in the spring.  With good management you may be able to graze the cover crop to your desired level, remove the livestock, then plant your corn “green”.  Let the cover crop regrow to the stage where it will uptake herbicide effectively and then burn it down.  Excessive spring rainfall may lead to some tracking by livestock so having a backup plan in case that develops is advisable. 

If you planted a multi-species cover crop with an overwintering legume component you would ideally want to let the legume grow until nitrogen is being fixed for corn plants to use.  That again could require either a shorter season variety allowing later planting and/or planting green as discussed earlier.

Newcomers to no-tilling corn into cover crops into lower organic matter soils may want to consider terminating a cereal rye cover crop a little earlier to avoid any allelopathy issues or excess moisture and nutrient competition to the corn plant from the grass cover crop.  In furrow pop up fertilizer and/or starter fertilizer with extra nitrogen will help mitigate the early nutrient competition.

Plant corn a minimum of 2 ½” deep into the cover crop and make sure you have sufficient down pressure to close the seed furrow.  The more you increase your soil organic matter with no-till and cover crops, the easier your soil is to work with. 

Planting soybeans green into a cereal rye cover crop is the easier part of the continuous no-till and cover crop system.  Soybeans are a legume and tolerate competition from the grass cover crop well.  Planting soybeans 2 ½” deep into the living cereal rye root system that is supporting an active arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi population will allow the beneficial fungus to colonize the germinating bean roots and protect them from other pathogenic fungal diseases.

The biomass from the cereal rye with aggressive living roots combined with the existing corn residue makes for a carbon charged growing season.  The rye has sequestered the leftover nitrates from the corn crop, so the soybean plants go to work immediately fixing nitrogen. This is the leg of the corn/soybean rotation where you can increase soil organic matter more.

Some cover crop is always better for the soil than no cover crop.  A cereal rye cover crop with just 12 inches of growth can have a root system 24 to 36 inches deep so there will be soil health improvement benefits from the cover crop at all stages of growth.  The link between the sun and soil is the living plant with roots exuding the plant sugars created by photosynthesis that feed the soil biology.  The more time there is living roots in the soil the more your soil thrives.

 John Frey plants corn “green” into 18” tall cereal rye near Albion.  Planting green allows you to get more growth and benefit out of the cover crop in a year where growing conditions for the cover have not been optimum

John Frey plants corn “green” into 18” tall cereal rye near Albion.  Planting green allows you to get more growth and benefit out of the cover crop in a year where growing conditions for the cover have not been optimum

A public hearing to certify irrigated acres will be held April 26th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold a public hearing to certify irrigated acres on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 7:30 pm.  The hearing will be held in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  The attached list of individuals are those who have fields in this certification hearing.  If you have any questions about this hearing or the certification process, contact Mike Murphy at the LENRD office, 402-371-7313.

Acres to be Certified

Public Hearing Policy

Contested Hearing Form

NRD 5K/1 Mile Fun Run & Kids Dash cancelled due to blizzard warning

The Nebraska Association of Resources District’s annual 5K/1 Mile Fun Run & Kids Dash set for Saturday, April 14, 2018 on the Cowboy Trail in Norfolk has been cancelled due to the expected snow storm.

The NARD and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) urge residents to take all necessary precautions to stay safe during the expected storm event.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored the run and donated to the Foundation, which supports youth interested in pursuing careers in natural resources.

In lieu of the event, the NARD Foundation will donate to the Norfolk Rescue Mission.

5K Community Trail Run comes to Norfolk

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is reaching out across the district to help support youth education in natural resources. The LENRD is hosting a 5K Run, 1 Mile Walk and Kids Dash fundraiser at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park in Norfolk, NE on Saturday, April 14, 2018.  Join the LENRD for the 4th annual trail run that raises money to educate our youth about protecting the state’s water, soil, wildlife and vibrant Nebraskan landscape through the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Foundation.  The run kicks off at 9 AM. Runners, walkers and families ready to explore the outdoors will get to enjoy a scenic, out and back run next to the beautiful Elkhorn River.

Each dollar raised goes to several programs the NARD Foundation sponsors. These include programs like FFA, Adventure Camp about the Environment (ACE Camp) and Envirothon. Programs like these provide students of all ages an opportunity for hands-on experiences with our natural resources. The Foundation hands out more than $25,000 every year for this cause.

The 23 natural resources districts move the race to a different area of the state every year to promote natural resources opportunities for our youth through the Foundation. The race also highlights one of 80 multi-purpose recreation areas created by the NRDs across the state. If you’d like to check out other recreation areas, go to www.nrdrec.org.

You can register by going to http://getmeregistered.com/nrdrun. If you’d like to donate, contact the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts at 402-471-7670.

The 5K run raised more than $5,000 last year in Lincoln. In 2016, the run raised more than $4,000 in Omaha. This year, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is teaming up with the local community and NARD Foundation with a goal to raise even more.

The state’s NRDs are proud to protect lives, property and future of Nebraska. We encourage the public to come out and support our youth.

Registration Form

NRD Programs Assistant needed

There is a position opening in the West Point office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  The NRD Programs Assistant would provide administrative support work with moderate difficulty and complexity involving a variety of tasks.  Strong computer and communication skills needed.  40 hours per week with excellent benefits.  Send resume' to the Lower Elkhorn NRD, P.O. Box 1204, Norfolk, NE  68702-1204.  Closing date:  March 14, 2018.

Job Description

 

Cover Crop Management workshops to be held in Pierce and West Point

Are you interested in learning more about Cover Crop Management?  There are two educational workshops coming up in Pierce and West Point, sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).

The workshop in Pierce will be held at the Lied Public Library, 207 W. Court Street, on Tuesday, February 27th from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  The workshop in West Point will be held at the Cuming County Courthouse, 200 S. Lincoln Street, on Wednesday, February 28th from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

The workshops will begin with coffee and rolls at 9:00 a.m., followed by presentations on soil biology, cover crop management, and much more.  Aaron Hird, NRCS State Soil Health Specialist, will visit about why the biology of our soil is so important.  Dan Gillespie, NRCS No-till Specialist, will discuss cover crop management in corn/soybean rotations, what to seed, when to terminate, and what herbicides to use.  Pam Polenske, Stanton County NRCS, will present information on Client Gateway and how to access your NRCS documents online.

Reserve your seat by calling your local NRCS office or the LENRD in Norfolk.

Workshop Agendas

A public hearing to certify irrigated acres will be held February 22nd

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold a public hearing to certify irrigated acres on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.  The hearing will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College - 601 East Benjamin Avenue in Norfolk.  The attached list of individuals are those who have fields in this certification hearing.  If you have any questions about this hearing or the certification process, contact Mike Murphy at the LENRD office, 402-371-7313.

Acres to be Certified

Public Hearing Policy

Contested Hearing Form

No-till, Cover Crops, and Planned Grazing Workshop to be held February 14th

The annual no-till, cover crops, and planned grazing workshop will be held Wednesday, February 14th in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.

Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. with coffee and rolls provided by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).

In the morning session, Jay Fuhrer will present “What’s on your landscape?”  Fuhrer is a Soil Health Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Bismarck, ND.  He will talk about the grazing and cropping systems we use today and compare them to the systems which built our soils.

Paul Jasa, Extension Engineer with UNL, will also be on hand to present the Rogers Memorial Farm Cover Crop Update.

The afternoon program will include more information from the morning speakers, along with Dan Gillespie, NRCS No-till Specialist for Madison County.  Dan will talk about cover crop management in corn/bean rotations, what crops to seed, and when to terminate.

Lunch will be provided at noon.  The workshop will end at approximately 3:00 p.m. and is sponsored by the NRCS and the LENRD.  Reserve your seat by calling your local NRCS office or the LENRD at 402.371.7313 by February 8th.

Workshop Agenda

LENRD Board to release the approved applications for new irrigated acres

Landowners within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, had an opportunity to apply for new irrigated acres for 2018.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “After much debate last fall, the board voted to take applications for standard variances district-wide.  Applications for nearly 24,000 new irrigated acres were received during the sign-up period, which was open between November 15th and December 15, 2017.”

The board voted at their January meeting to approve up to 2,390 new acres in the Hydrologically Connected or 10/50 Area, and to approve up to 2,530 new acres in the Non-Hydrologically Connected or Non 10/50 Area under the district’s standard variance process.

Bruckner continued, “Staff will now go through the process of contacting the landowners with both approved and non-approved acres.”  After the landowners have been properly notified, the approved list will be available to the public, sometime in February.

In other business, the Board approved an amendment to the LENRD Rules and Regulations for the Management of Groundwater, which will add a new Rule 18 – Transfers of Water Uses.  The addition of this rule will allow the district to consider requests for the transfer of certified acres within the district.  Bruckner said, “Numerous factors will be weighed when evaluating each request, but it will provide both landowners and the district with an additional tool for the management of water resources in the district.”

The board also brought discussion of the Drought Management Plan to a vote at their January meeting and approved adoption of the Drought Management Plan into the LENRD’s Groundwater Management Plan.  Approval of this Plan will merely provide the district with a mechanism to define and categorize drought conditions within the district, and outlines some general response mechanisms that could be utilized in response to each designation.  At the suggestion of the board, the Plan will also integrate real time monitoring well data and a November 1st date for the establishment of any subsequent groundwater controls (for irrigation purposes for the following growing season) as components of the plan.  Most importantly, future effort will be required to develop implementation mechanisms that could be employed by the district to effectively protect groundwater supplies for all groundwater users, during a prolonged period of drought.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “This is a working document that will be utilized, if and when a drought situation occurs.  It gives the district a place to start.”

In other action, the board approved the amended Recreation Area Rules and Regulations.  One of the amendments kept the current policy in place which does not allow alcohol at the Recreation Areas owned by the LENRD, which includes Maskenthine Lake, near Stanton; Maple Creek Recreation Area, near Leigh; and the Willow Creek State Recreation Area, near Pierce.

The district is inviting the public to attend the Bazile Groundwater Management Area Winter Open House & Informational Meeting at the Osmond City Auditorium on Wednesday, February 7th.  The Open House is from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Various topics of the day will include the role of the NRDs, health and drinking water, best management practices, as well as soil fertility and cover crop programs.  Contact the LENRD for more information.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, February 22nd at 7:30 p.m. in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.

Our Water + Our Land + Our Health = Our Future

A major push is underway by the four Natural Resources Districts that share in the protection of the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) to help inform citizens and gain participation with solutions that will address serious health risks associated with excessive levels of nitrate and other chemicals in local aquifers and area soils.

A public open house is scheduled for Wednesday, February 7, at the City Auditorium in Osmond, NE between the hours of 11 AM to 2 PM.  A lunch meal will be provided to participants.

Martha Rhoades, Ph.D., from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will provide a feature presentation that shares the findings of a recent study showing that there are elevated incidents of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and birth defects for people within the BGMA and some other parts of Nebraska, due to excessive levels of commercial fertilizer components such as nitrate and herbicides such as atrazine.

The open house also provides an important opportunity for individuals to sign up for available grant funding to use toward best management practice (BMP) tools and technology to reduce the levels of nitrate in our soil and water.   There is an urgency for people interested in receiving USDA grant funds because of the application deadline is February 16th.  Individuals will be able to apply for these funds at the open house meeting.

This issue affects people on private wells and community water systems alike.  Information on other best management practices will be provided for urban and rural landowners. 

Reports provided by agricultural producers in each of the four NRDs is also demonstrating that despite efforts of efficiency, too much fertilizer is still being applied in many fields throughout the Bazile Groundwater Management Area.  This over application is not only costing producers thousands of dollars in wasted fertilizer, it directly impacts soil health and is not correlating to greater yields.   Natural precipitation and over irrigating then causes excessive levels of nitrate to leach into the aquifer.

The Bazile Groundwater Management Area is 756 square miles consisting of portions of Antelope, Knox and Pierce counties along with portions of the Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lewis and Clark, and Lower Niobrara Natural Resources Districts.

For more information about this meeting and these topics contact:  the Lower Elkhorn NRD at 402-371-7313.

Winter Open House - Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Prescribed burn workshop ignites efforts to equip land stewards with tools for success

Pheasants Forever, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Lower Elkhorn NRD will host a basic prescribed burn workshop on Tuesday, January 30. The workshop will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center in Norfolk from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Generally, individual landowners interested in prescribed fire lack necessary training or resources to achieve their goals independently. “It takes the time and coordination of many people working together to successfully and safely complete a prescribed burn” according to wildlife biologist Scott Schmidt.  For this reason, Pheasants Forever, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and other conservation partners led an effort to educate, empower, and align land stewards who share a common goal: to increase the health of the land as Mother Nature intended, with fire. Workshops equip participants with a basic understanding of how to use prescribed fire safely and effectively. Topics such as fire behavior, prescribed burning techniques, writing burn plans, equipment use, and smoke management are presented by experienced natural resource managers and wildlife biologists.

Prescribed burn associations provide “next step” opportunities to gain experience with hands-on involvement. Dan Kathol, president of the Lower Elkhorn Prescribed Burn Association, meets with members to ensure that prep work and burn plans are complete before the spring burn season. Kathol said, “We will need to combine as many burns into a single day in order to get as many burns done on a day when the weather is conducive.” In 2017, the burn association had a record 27 burns totaling 2,260 acres in northeast Nebraska.

While landowners often seek their assistance, prescribed burn associations are not a work-for-hire operation. Like any other volunteer group, success depends on members who are willing to lend their time and resources to accomplish mutually beneficial goals for everyone involved. It’s a neighbor-helping-neighbor model. Burn association members must attend a basic burn workshop and participate in at least 1-2 burns each year. A small favor to ask, considering the benefit of having access to an 81-member network and a mobile prescribed burn trailer, complete with about $28,000 worth of burn equipment.

To attend the prescribed burn workshop in Norfolk, visit the events page at www.NebraskaPF.com or call Ashley at 308-850-8395. A $10 registration fee covers the classroom training, workshop materials, and lunch. Please register by January 24, 2018.

Since 2008, a total of 118 workshops have increased prescribed fire knowledge among 2,791 attendees thanks to the collaboration of Pheasants Forever, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Environmental Trust, and other conservation partners throughout the state.

Workshop Flyer

Lower Elkhorn NRD Board votes to move office to new location

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will soon have a new home.

LENRD Board Chairman, Dennis Schultz, said, “It wasn’t an easy decision to make because of the district’s longtime, strong partnership with Northeast Community College, but the need to be as fiscally responsible as possible is what led the board to approve the purchase of an office building at its Dec. 21 meeting.”

This means the district will be moving out of its offices in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College, which has been its home since the center was constructed 20 years ago.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The LLC has been a great location for us to grow and expand our programs.  However, our lease with the college recently came up for review and the board felt savings to the taxpayer could be realized by relocating.”

The 14 board members present at the meeting voted unanimously to purchase the former Sterling Computer building at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  The cost for the office building is $1.2 million, with $954,000 already designated by the LENRD board in a sinking fund for the purchase.  The district will borrow $400,000 for a term of one year to complete the purchase.

Sousek said the new home for the LENRD offers several advantages that were important to board members.

“There’s room to expand at the new location.  With our increasing workload, this location will allow for future growth.  The new space has ample storage as well as a building for vehicles and equipment on-site,” Sousek added.  “More importantly, over the next 10 years the district will realize $500,000 in savings just in operation and maintenance costs by making this move.  In the end, the taxpayer will be the real winner with this change."

Sousek said the NRD staff is looking forward to making a smooth transition to the new facility while providing the same high-level of public service to the citizens of the district.

Sousek said he also wanted to thank Northeast Community College for serving as the district’s home for two decades.  He said, “We hope our move provides some new opportunities for the college in creating available space at the learning center for other potential partners.”

Public hearing on obtaining a permit to appropriate water is this Thursday

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will conduct a hearing on Thursday, December 21st at 7:30 p.m. at their office located in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College.  The hearing is being held to receive public comments as to whether the LENRD Board of Directors should authorize and make an application to the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for a permit to appropriate water for instream flows in the lower portion of the Elkhorn River in Madison, Stanton, Cuming, Dodge and Washington Counties.  Persons needing special accommodations to attend, monitor, or participate in this public hearing should contact the LENRD at lenrd@lenrd.org or call 402.371.7313 prior to the public hearing.

Public Notice

Application for a permit to appropriate water                  for instream flows