Nebraska's NRDs celebrate 45 years of Protecting Natural Resources

July 2017 marks 45 years of protecting lives, property and the future of natural resources for Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRDs).  Throughout 2017, the NRDs will be celebrating the success of projects and programs that help protect Nebraska’s natural resources.  NRDs are unique because they are governed by locally elected boards and Nebraska is the only state to have this system.  A handful of board members, managers and staff have been a part of the system since the NRD creation in 1972.

Senator Maurice Kremer introduced and the Nebraska Legislature enacted Legislative Bill (LB) 1357 in 1969 to combine Nebraska’s 154 special purpose entities into 24 Natural Resources Districts by July 1972.  The original 24 NRDs’ boundaries were organized based on Nebraska’s major river basins which allows for better management practices to be applied to similar topography.  In 1989, the Middle Missouri NRD and the Papio NRD were merged into one, becoming the Papio-Missouri River NRD which resulted in the current 23-NRD system.

“Nebraska’s 23 NRDs have been addressing natural resources issues and concerns with local solutions for 45 years,” said Mike Sousek, General Manager of the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) in Norfolk.

Nebraska's NRDs are involved in a wide variety of projects and programs to conserve and protect the state's natural resources.  Sousek added, “NRDs are charged under state law with 12 areas of responsibility including flood control, soil erosion, and groundwater management.  While all NRDs share the 12 main responsibilities, each district sets its own priorities and develops programs to best serve local needs and to protect Nebraska’s natural resources for future generations.”

NRDs are local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect our natural resources.  Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling districts to respond best to local conservation and resource management needs. To learn more about Nebraska’s NRDs visit www.nrdnet.org or your local NRD website at www.lenrd.org

The signing of the bill to create NRDs in Nebraska in 1972 - Those instrumental in the bill's passage were, from left:  Harold Siek, Herman Link, Chet Ellis, Senator Maurice Kremer, Governor Norbert Thiemann, Warren Patefield, Milton Fricke, and Warren Fairchild.  Nebraska's NRDs began when the legislature consolidated 154 watershed districts and conservation districts into 24 local watershed-based Natural Resources Districts.

The signing of the bill to create NRDs in Nebraska in 1972 - Those instrumental in the bill's passage were, from left:  Harold Siek, Herman Link, Chet Ellis, Senator Maurice Kremer, Governor Norbert Thiemann, Warren Patefield, Milton Fricke, and Warren Fairchild.  Nebraska's NRDs began when the legislature consolidated 154 watershed districts and conservation districts into 24 local watershed-based Natural Resources Districts.

Cost-share deadline is June 30th for irrigation flow meters

Another flow meter has been added to the approved list by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors.  At their June meeting, the board approved the inclusion of the McCrometer Duramag flow meter.  There are now 8 approved flow meters that producers can install on their irrigation systems prior to January 1, 2018.  The district is also offering cost-share of $500 per flow meter to producers who apply for the funding by this Friday, June 30th.  Contact your local NRCS office or the LENRD office to apply.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “These incentives are available for producers on a first-come, first-served basis.  There is enough grant money to cost-share on 3,000 meters.   Therefore, it’s very important that producers apply at their local NRCS office or the LENRD office by June 30th.”

LENRD Projects Manager, Curt Becker, said, “A list of the approved meters as well as a list of the LENRD Certified Flow Meter Installation Contractors can be found on the district’s website.  These contractors have already completed the required flow meter installation training.”  Becker added, “If you do not want to become certified to install your own meter, you must select a certified installer from the list.”  If you would like to be trained to install your own flow meter, please contact the LENRD.

In other action, the City of Pierce requested financial assistance for the construction of a test well to be used to evaluate site feasibility for the potential construction of a new Public Water Supply well.  The board voted to approve the request of $5,000 for the construction of the well through the LENRD’s Public Water Supply Test Well Cost-Share Program.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “We’re always looking for ways to help our communities, especially in finding a safe drinking water supply.  This is a good program for the cities and towns across our district, and it also gives us an opportunity to utilize the test well for water quality monitoring purposes.”

Cost-share deadline for flow meters is Friday, June 30th

In an effort to remain proactive in the management of our groundwater, flow meters are required on all active irrigation wells within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) by January 1, 2018.

The LENRD secured grants to assist landowners with the expense of this requirement.  Funding is limited, and the deadline to apply for cost-share is Friday, June 30th, 2017.  Contact your local NRCS office or the LENRD to apply.

The LENRD received a grant from Nebraska’s Water Sustainability Fund (WSF), administered by the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, to assist landowners with the purchase of flow meters.  With the WSF grant, the LENRD will pay producers $500 per flow meter.  All producers who have installed flow meters on or after November 25th, 2015, or producers who have yet to install their flow meters, can apply for the $500 incentive payments until the funds run out.  Application for the flow meter cost-share can be completed by visiting your local NRCS office or the LENRD office in Norfolk.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “These incentives are available for producers on a first-come, first-served basis.  There is enough grant money to cost-share on 3,000 meters.   Therefore, it’s very important that producers apply at their local NRCS office or the LENRD office by June 30th, 2017.”

The LENRD has approved seven meters for installation.  LENRD Projects Manager, Curt Becker, said, “The change in our Groundwater Management Area rules and regulations also requires anyone installing a flow meter within the LENRD to attend an installation training session to become a certified installer.”  A list of the approved meters as well as a list of the LENRD Certified Flow Meter Installation Contractors can be found on the district’s website.  These contractors have already completed the required flow meter installation training.  Becker added, “If you do not want to become certified to install your own meter, you must select a certified installer from the list.”  If you would like to be trained to install your own flow meter, please contact the LENRD at 402.371.7313.

Sign up now for Soil and Water Conservation funding at your local NRCS office

Landowners in northeast Nebraska have until June 16, 2017, to apply for funding.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into an agreement with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District to help farmers improve irrigation water management, reduce soil erosion and install conservation practices through the Lower Elkhorn Water and Soil Conservation Initiative. This Initiative is available through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Producers in the northeast Nebraska 15-county Initiative area (see map) originally had until mid-October to apply, but the sign up has been extended to June 16, 2017. Producers should visit one of the NRCS offices located in the Initiative area to apply.

Robin Sutherland, District Conservationist in the Stanton NRCS field office said, “This Initiative is a great opportunity for farmers and ranchers to receive financial and technical assistance to make their operations more productive and sustainable.”

Through the Initiative, NRCS and the Lower Elkhorn NRD work together to provide financial and technical assistance to help farmers apply soil and water conservation practices like flow meters, irrigation water management, nutrient management, as well as adopt soil health practices like no-till and cover crops on eligible cropland.

For more information about the RCPP and other conservation programs available from NRCS, visit your local USDA Service center or www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.

Students from Pierce and Humphrey win trip to Arbor Day Farm

     Nucor and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) have teamed up to create further awareness in the schools about the importance of recycling.  They developed a contest a few years ago called, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Beyond.”  Students in grades K-4 are invited to tell their story about how they recycle, in the form of a poster, video, radio spot, coloring book, song, news column, or any other creative way.

     The 2017 contest winners were Susan Fehringer’s 3rd grade reading group from Pierce Elementary, and Stacie Baumgart’s 2nd grade class from Humphrey St. Francis.  They created videos showing how they learned about preserving nature’s resources by reusing and recycling.  Both classes won a trip to the Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City.

     On May 11th a chartered bus took the winning classes and staff to Arbor Day Farm for a fun-filled day of learning.  They toured parts of the farm and were able to enjoy the Tree Adventure as well as the guided trails and tree houses.  They also received t-shirts from the sponsors that they wore on the trip.

     LENRD Information & Education Specialist Julie Wragge said, “Taking the students to Arbor Day Farm is always inspiring for me.  Not only did the students learn about J. Sterling Morton and his legacy, but they were able to use their 5 senses to understand how important trees are for our future.”

     Fehringer said, “We had a TREE-mendous day.  We felt so lucky to be able to win your contest and go on this exciting field trip.  We spent some time talking about our favorite things and what we learned.  It was a wonderful experience.”

     Baumgart said, "It was truly the best field trip I have ever been on.  My students were fascinated with our tour, the immensity of it all, and the countless outdoor nature activities they got to explore and play on all day.  It was one of the best learning experiences for my kids and so fun for myself to experience through their excitement."

     Grace McPhillips, 2nd grader at Humphrey St. Francis, said, "I loved all the trees that J. Sterling Morton planted.  He wanted to help the earth have clean air and families have trees.  It was really really fun with the hammocks in the tree forts and my friends and I played house."

     Wragge added, “I am very excited about our partnership with Nucor.  This has been an awesome opportunity for the students across Northeast Nebraska.  We want to encourage our teachers and students to start thinking about ways they can help their schools and communities become greener and be prepared to tell us in next year’s contest.”

Pierce Elementary - Mrs. Fehringer's 3rd grade reading group

Pierce Elementary - Mrs. Fehringer's 3rd grade reading group

Humphrey St. Francis - Miss Baumgart's 2nd graders - 2017

Humphrey St. Francis - Miss Baumgart's 2nd graders - 2017

Lower Elkhorn NRD offers scholarships to attend 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 or the LENRD office for more information and an application form.  All applications must be received by Friday, May 26th.  4-H scholarship winners will be notified the week of May 29th.

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

Flow meters required for all wells designed to pump more than 50 gallons per minute

At its April 27, 2017 monthly meeting, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors held a public hearing to consider amending its rules to require flow meters on public water supply, commercial, industrial and livestock wells designed to pump more than 50 gallons per minute. The Board approved these changes, which become effective on May 26, 2017. The amended rules require flow meters to be installed on these wells by January 1, 2019.  

LENRD Water Resources Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, "The high-capacity wells in the district join irrigation wells in the requirement to have flow meters installed.  Irrigation wells must have flow meters installed by January 1, 2018."

Mike Sousek, LENRD General Manager, said, "Thursday's decision makes the groundwater management rules more equitable across the district.  The board made the decision that instead of focusing everything on agriculture, we need to look at all the stakeholders.  If your well pumps more than 50 gallons per minute, you will need a meter installed."

Sousek added, "We're going to start working with the communities in our district, explaining the next steps.  This will be a benefit to them in the long run.  When a drought hits, especially a multi-year drought, it affects everyone."

Order of Designation and Flow Meter Rule

Assistant General Manager retires after almost 40 years of service

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) board and staff recently celebrated the retirement of Assistant General Manager, Ken Berney, of Stanton.  Ken has been on the staff at the LENRD for almost 40 years.

Ken's leadership has been so important for the future of our district. He has formed lasting relationships with, not only his co-workers, but with the numerous partners and agencies that have worked with the LENRD since 1972. The knowledge that Ken is taking with him is priceless! Thank you Ken for your commitment to the protection of our natural resources, and for your constant support of our projects and programs. We wish you all the best in retirement. We miss you already!

Lower Elkhorn NRD promotes Arbor Day with tree sales

In Nebraska, Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in April.  The 145th Anniversary of Arbor Day will be celebrated this Friday, April 28th.

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.  Small acreage packages will also be available for $44.

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.

Open House on April 4th to review Lower Elkhorn River Basin Water Quality Management Plan

Landowners and residents of the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) are invited to attend an Open House to learn about the Lower Elkhorn River Basin Water Quality Management Plan (the Plan). The Plan covers the lower portion of the Elkhorn River Basin, which is the watershed that created the boundary for the LENRD. The Plan provides a single coordinated strategy to identify water quality threats and needs, prioritize watersheds and areas for improvement, and identify practices and activities appropriate to address the known deficiencies in water quality.

The Open House will be located in the Lifelong Learning Center at Northeast Community College, 601 E Benjamin Ave, Norfolk, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm on April 4, 2017. Representatives from the NRD and NDEQ will be present to discuss the intent of the Plan, key recommendations, and how the Plan will benefit the public as projects are implemented in the future.

LENRD Grant Coordinator, Kristie Olmer, said, “The biggest priority for the LENRD was to address water quality concerns for the Willow Creek Reservoir. The Plan includes specific actions that would need to take place in order to reduce the occurrence of toxic algae blooms at the lake. Other waterbodies considered a priority for additional monitoring include Maskenthine Lake, Maple Creek Lake, and Rock Creek.”

The Plan was funded through a grant received from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and the LENRD.

The public is encouraged to visit www.lenrd.org/water-studies for more information and to view a copy of the full draft plan. Please contact Kristie Olmer at 402-371-7313 or kolmer@lenrd.org to provide comments or input.

Two tree pruning workshops to be held this week

The Osmond Tree Board will be hosting a Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop at the Osmond Fruit Orchard at the intersection of Main Street and Hwy 20 on Tuesday, March 28th from 2-4 p.m. This workshop is open to the public with no registration necessary. Pam Bergstrom, Forester with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District, and Steve Rasmussen, District Forester with the Nebraska Forest Service, will demonstrate how to prune fruit trees and how to care for them. Contact Pam Bergstrom at 402.371.7313 for more information.

The Madison Arboretum Board will be hosting a tree pruning workshop on Wednesday, March 29th at the Madison Pool meeting room from 2-4 p.m.  The pool is located near the intersections of South Lincoln Street and 10th Street.  No registration is necessary.  The foresters will be on hand to explain and demonstrate how to prune trees and shrubs.  The public is encouraged to attend.  For more information, contact Pam Bergstrom:  pbergstrom@lenrd.org

Public hearing on proposed amendments to Groundwater Management Area rules will be held March 23rd

The Lower Elkhorn NRD will hold a public hearing on Thursday, March 23rd at 7:30 p.m.  The purpose of the hearing is to receive public comment on proposed amendments to the district's groundwater management area rules and regulations.  The district proposes to require the installation of flow meters on all active Public Water Supply, Commercial/Industrial, and Livestock wells within the district that are designed to pump more than 50 gallons per minute, and to install flow meters on these wells by January 1, 2019.  Please see the attachments below, or contact the LENRD office for more information at 402-371-7313.

Notice of Public Hearing

Proposed Amendments

 

Apply today to become a Camp Host at Maskenthine or Maple Creek

Are you interested in becoming a Camp Host for the Maskenthine Lake Recreation Area or the Maple Creek Recreation Area? Camp hosts are volunteers who are willing to share their camping knowledge and love of the outdoors with others. They welcome visitors, acquaint them with park facilities, and answer any questions they may have. The recreation areas are located near Stanton and Leigh, NE. Contact the LENRD for more information at 402-371-7313.

Camp Host Application

Maskenthine Lake - north of Stanton, NE

Maskenthine Lake - north of Stanton, NE

Public meeting to present helicopter flight data in Bazile Groundwater Management Area on Wednesday

The Bazile Groundwater Management Area Project will be holding a presentation in Creighton, NE on Wednesday, March 15th at 3:00 p.m. at the VFW Hall to present the groundwater mapping data from the helicopter flights flown last July.  The meeting is open to the public.  Light refreshments will be provided.  For more information contact Tanner Jenkins, Project Coordinator at 402-336-3867.

A public hearing to certify irrigated acres will be held March 23rd

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will conduct a public hearing to certify irrigated acres on March 23, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.  The hearing will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center, located 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

The LENRD has an opening for a Programs Assistant for Wayne County

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) has an opening for a Programs Assistant in the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Wayne, NE.  Administrative support work with moderate difficulty and complexity involving a variety of tasks, and strong computer skills needed.  40 hours per week with excellent benefits.  Send resume’ to the:  LENRD, P.O. Box 1204, Norfolk, NE 68702-1204.  Closing date:  March 3, 2017.

Programs Assistant - Job Description

Programs Assistant - Other Job Duties

No-till, cover crops, and planned grazing workshop to be held on the 15th

The annual no-till, cover crops, and planned grazing workshop will be held Wednesday, February 15th 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, Dan Leininger will be talking about soil moisture monitoring and telemetry.  Leininger has worked at the Upper Big Blue NRD for 13 years as a Water Conservationist and was instrumental in developing the Nebraska Agricultural Water Use Network which measures soil moisture and crop evapo-transpiration to schedule irrigation on crops. Leininger also manages the Upper Big Blue NRD’s demonstration farm that uses crop rotation and cover crops to improve soil health which will reduce input costs and increase profit per acre.

Keith Berns will present:  Carbonomics – The “Currency” of Biological Systems.  Berns combines 20 years of no-till farming with 10 years of teaching Agriculture and Computers.  He is no-tilling 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas, sunflowers, and buckwheat.  Berns speaks on cover crops and soil health more than 20 times per year to various groups and audiences.

Mary Drewnoski will talk about the impacts of cattle grazing on croplands.  Drewnoski is a Beef Systems Specialist with UNL and is researching utilization of corn residue and cover crop forages for backgrounding calves and feeding beef cows. She will talk about how corn residue and cover crop grazing impacts soil health and how grazing cover crops positively impact crop yields.

Lunch will be provided by the LENRD at noon.

The afternoon program will include:  Ray Ward - Managing Fertility with Cover Crops in No-till Soils.  Ward, founder and president of Ward Laboratories says “Soil Health” is simply a measure of the interaction of plant growth to microbial activity”.  Ward will talk about the soil fertility concepts of this “new paradigm” in nutrient management where cover crops are added to continuous no-till cash cropping systems.

Lance Gunderson will present:  Integrating Soil Health Tests with Traditional Soil Tests.  Gunderson joined Ward Laboratories in the fall of 2002 and is currently the Director of Soil Health and New Test Development.  Gunderson will talk about correlating PLFA, Solvita, and Haney tests with standard soil tests in making a “modern day” recommendation for nutrient management plans.

Dan Gillespie, State No-Till Specialist, will discuss Cover Crop Management in corn/soybean rotations, and will highlight management options:  seeding, termination, and planting cash crops.

The workshop will end at 3:00 p.m. and is sponsored by:  the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the LENRD.  Reserve your seat by calling your local NRCS office or the LENRD at 402.371.7313.

Cover Crop Management Workshops to be held next week

The Lower Elkhorn NRD and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are hosting three educational workshops on cover crop management on Feb. 6th, 7th, and 8th.  Producers are encouraged to attend the workshops to learn important benefits to your farming operation from producers who have experience in growing cover crops.  The workshops will be held from 9:00 until noon each day.  The workshop on Monday will be held at the courthouse in West Point, Tuesday at the library in Pierce, and Wednesday at the Lifelong Learning Center in Norfolk.  Call the LENRD office for further details at 371-7313, or stop by your local NRCS office.

Cover Crop Management Workshops - Feb. 6th, 7th, 8th

Bank stabilization project will provide protection along Elkhorn River

Since the flood of 2010, a unique local partnership has been building to protect northeast Nebraska from future flood events.

At their January meeting, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) board voted 12 to 1 to approve the Interlocal Agreement to move forward with the bank stabilization project that will protect the railroad and Highway 81 from future flood events on the Elkhorn River.  The flooding in 2010 caused significant damage, including the collapse of a railroad bridge, which negatively impacted area businesses and industry.  A railroad employee was killed when the bridge collapsed into the river.

The bank stabilization project brings together public and private partners, including:  the Madison County Railroad Transportation Safety District, Nebraska Central Railroad, Nucor, Vulcraft, Elkhorn Valley Ethanol, Norfolk Iron & Metal, and the LENRD.

Norfolk City Administrator, Shane Weidner, said, “I’m thankful to the LENRD board and all the partners.  This has truly been a team effort from our industrial partners, our major industries, the Railroad Transportation Safety District and the LENRD.”

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “This has been a great collaborative effort between Madison County, the City of Norfolk, the industries, and the LENRD.  I’m happy the board moved forward with this. It’s going to provide great protection for all of us in Northeast Nebraska. I’m looking forward to getting the contract in place and getting the project built.”

The project has seen a decrease in cost from $2.4 million to the current estimate of $750,000.  The LENRD will share $250,000 of the cost as a partner in this project.

In other action, the board elected new officers for 2017.

The board elected Dennis Schultz of Wisner as their new chairman.  Mike Krueger of Pierce was voted in as vice-chairman, Mark Hall of Norfolk as secretary, and Bob Huntley of Norfolk as Treasurer.  Other positions filled were Kurt Janke of Wayne as the voting delegate of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, and Gary Loftis of Craig as the alternate NARD delegate.

Sousek, said, “I’m looking forward to working with the new officers.  This gives them a chance to demonstrate their leadership skills as we work through various issues and challenges together.”

The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, February 23rd at 7:30 p.m.