Nebraska's unique NRD system is key to addressing groundwater quality

Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) are a rare example of a groundwater government whose practices are conducive to positive, sustainable groundwater quality outcomes, according to a new study published in the most recent edition of Water Alternatives, an interdisciplinary journal on water, politics and development.

Nebraska’s Natural Resource District System: Collaborative Approaches to Adaptive Groundwater Quality Governance,” presents Nebraska as a case study for the development of governance regimes that have the potential to address agricultural nonpoint source groundwater nitrate pollution.

The study, led by Gregory Sixt while at Tufts University (now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab), stemmed from earlier research by Bleed and Babbitt (2015), which demonstrated that the NRDs represent a robust system for the sustainable management of groundwater quantity. This research expands upon that analysis to examine the NRD system as it has evolved to include groundwater quality in the last 30 years. Other researchers contributing to this study include: Laurens Klerkx, Wageningen University (The Netherlands); J. David Aiken, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Timothy Griffin, Tufts University.

“I hope this paper will increase awareness of the NRD system and highlight to more people Nebraska's unique and special model for managing its groundwater resources,” Sixt said. “I believe strongly that the NRD system has a lot to teach other states.”

Research included 34 interviews throughout June 2017 with a diverse set of experts from various NRDs; the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts; Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; agricultural producers; City of Hastings Utilities; Nebraska Extension and the Groundwater Foundation.

The research also focused on three groundwater nitrate management programs in Nebraska that collectively represent the broader NRD system.

  1. The Central Platte NRD Groundwater Management Area (CPNRD GMA), which is the oldest nonpoint source nitrate program in the state, and has demonstrated a successful trend in reducing groundwater nitrate concentrations;

  2. The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA), which brings together four NRDs to address nitrate pollution; and

  3. The Hastings Wellhead Protection Area (Hastings WHPA), which is a collaboration between two NRDs and the city of Hastings. This project successfully bridges the rural-urban divide to address the nonpoint source nitrate pollution that is threatening the city’s drinking water source.

The study concluded that cooperative approaches are important to nonpoint source pollution program development and management, stating that Nebraska is in a unique position to showcase how local water management plans can be successful. The NRD system has been in place since 1972, and districts have been developing groundwater quality plans since the 1980s, allowing Nebraska to provide a model for other states beginning to develop their own groundwater governance regimes.

“We’ve been successful working with agricultural producers to reduce nitrate levels to protect water while still maintaining farm profitability,” said Lyndon Vogt, Central Platte NRD general manager and research participant. “We’re proud to set an example of how public and private partnerships work together to protect Nebraska’s vital resources from overuse and pollution.”

To read the full study, visit: Water Alternatives: Volume 12, Issue 2

The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD), the trade association for Nebraska's 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRD), works with individual districts to protect lives, property and the future of Nebraska’s natural resources. NRDs are unique to Nebraska, and act as local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect Nebraska’s natural resources. Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling districts to respond to local conservation and resource management needs. Learn more about Nebraska’s NRDs at www.nrdnet.org.

The Cowboy Trail near Norfolk is part of this year's Great Park Pursuit

Get ready for a new outdoor adventure: the 2019 Great Park Pursuit challenge has begun!

In this fun adventure, teams can visit up to 20 sites between May 1 and September 16, 2019, exploring Nebraska parks across the state and potentially winning prizes for it. Players follow clues to a post hidden somewhere on the park property, and submit proof they were there to earn entries into prize drawings. This year’s prizes include an iPad, Nebraskaland Magazine subscriptions and calendars, state park cabin stays, backyard game packages, and a grand prize with a retail value of $1,500.

The goal of the Great Park Pursuit, a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Recreation and Park Association (NeRPA), is to promote active lifestyles while increasing awareness of the state’s nature-rich outdoor recreation opportunities.

"Youth today spend an average of six to nine hours a day in front of a screen. The beauty of the Great Park Pursuit program is that it utilizes park systems across the state that provide the opportunity to explore, enjoy nature and inspire participants to increase their time outside," said NeRPA Recreation Manager Tracy Stratman. “It’s a completely free program that encourages a healthy lifestyle.”

With the addition of the Great Park Pursuit app, it’s fast and easy to mark your visits at a park site. Your experience may not be 100 percent screen free, but it only takes a moment or two to log in your visit, leaving you more time to enjoy the park experience.

The official park sites for 2019 include well-known parks such as Branched Oak State Recreation Area and Schramm Park State Recreation Area, as well as some hidden gems. Check out Nebraska’s longest rails-to-trails project and snap photos of the 1967 Union Pacific Railroad caboose at Caboose Park in Hershey. Enjoy some archery, mature shade trees and playground equipment with a vintage design at Milford South Park, and go fishing and kayaking at Valentine Mill Pond. 

The Great Park Pursuit is sponsored by the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources Department, and many others.

Participation in the program is free; only a park entry permit is required to enter state park areas. Learn more and sign up at negpp.org.

Public Hearing is June 27th on proposed changes to the Groundwater Management Area Rules & Regulations

The LENRD board has scheduled a Public Hearing on Thursday, June 27th at 7:30 p.m. to receive public testimony on proposed changes to the LENRD’s Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The proposed changes include amendments to Rule 1, which would add language outlining additional penalties when enforcing the plan’s rules and regulations, inclusion of some definitions for terms that relate to current groundwater management strategies, and other changes to integrate management components that are included in the recently adopted Integrated Management Plan.”

A complete summary of the proposed changes are available at the LENRD office in Norfolk as well as the link below.

The hearing will be at the LENRD office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  Stay connected with the LENRD by subscribing to their monthly emails.

Public Hearing Notice

Groundwater Management Area - Proposed Changes

Lower Elkhorn NRD board discusses future flood-control projects

As the area continues to recover from the recent flood events, communities are looking for assistance in studying possible solutions for the future.

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors discussed possible options for these communities at their May board meeting.  One of the LENRD’s 12 responsibilities includes flood prevention and control as well as prevention of damages from flood water and sediment.

The City of Battle Creek has had a history of flood-related problems.  City officials recently approached the LENRD board, asking if the potential flood-control projects that were deemed feasible in 2014 could be revisited.  The LENRD board of directors instructed staff to work with the City of Battle Creek in developing a proposal for the board to consider, identifying the project the city would like to pursue as well as updated construction costs for the potential project.

Battle Creek’s City Council met on May 13th and voted to explore options for a 1,200-acre flood-control reservoir on the south side of Battle Creek.

Over 100 citizens of the Battle Creek area attended the May 23rd LENRD Board of Directors meeting.  After a lengthy discussion the board voted to move ahead with the process of securing funding for a flood-control project.  The board voted 11 to 2 to file a letter of intent with FEMA/NEMA for flood protection for Battle Creek.  The board also voted 12 to 1 to direct staff to contract with consulting firms to prepare all the necessary documentation and complete a grant application to the State of Nebraska Water Sustainability Fund in the amount of $36 million as well as a grant application to the USDA Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “There are multiple benefits to think about when considering a project of this size.  First and foremost is the flood-control potential.  Along with that comes the benefits of recharge and retiming as well as recreation.”  Sousek continued, “The vote tonight has started the ball rolling to secure funding for a project.  This is just the first of many steps in this process.”

The 2 reservoirs that have been proposed for the area, south of Battle Creek, are a 160-acre pool for approximately $17 million and a 1,200-acre pool for $36 million.

The Village of Pender is requesting assistance to complete a drainage study of the area.  The LENRD board directed staff to develop an interlocal agreement to provide 50% of the cost of the study not to exceed $19,400 of district funds.

Some concerned citizens of Norfolk also requested assistance with a study.  The board instructed the LENRD staff to work with the City of Norfolk to address the request for a drainage study on the east side of Norfolk.

Sousek added, “Other towns or communities who need flood-control assistance should contact the LENRD as soon as possible so funding can be applied for before the deadlines.”

In other action, the board made a motion to schedule a Public Hearing to be held on Thursday, June 27th at 7:30 p.m. to receive public testimony on proposed changes to the LENRD’s Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The proposed changes include amendments to Rule 1, which would add language outlining additional penalties when enforcing the plan’s rules and regulations, inclusion of some definitions for terms that relate to current groundwater management strategies, and other changes to integrate management components that are included in the recently adopted Integrated Management Plan.”

A complete summary of the proposed changes will be available at the LENRD office in Norfolk and on the district’s website.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, June 27th at 7:30 p.m. at the LENRD office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  Stay connected with the LENRD by subscribing to their monthly emails.

The Maple Creek Recreation Area opened to the public 8 years ago today

The Maple Creek Recreation Area, just northwest of Leigh, NE, is the place to be this summer! The area opened to the public on May 21, 2011. 

The project is owned and operated by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).  The dam was constructed by Pruss Excavation of Dodge and is approximately 50 feet tall and located immediately west of Leigh – impounding the West Fork of Maple Creek, north of the Colfax County fairgrounds.  The project provides flood protection for the fairgrounds below the dam, including property owners on the south side of Leigh, and downstream bridges and landowners along the West Fork of Maple Creek.

The multi-purpose project provides flood control as well as recreation.  The area provides fishing, swimming, picnicking, hunting, natural areas, and trails.  The 160-acre reservoir is split by Highway 91 with the main pool lying between the highway and the Colfax County fairgrounds.  Highway 91 was raised approximately 12 feet above the lake which created a sediment retention/wetland area to provide good water quality and to extend the life of the lake.

Other recreation components of the project include:  a 50-pad RV campground, tent camping, playground, shower house, swimming beach, no-wake boating, and a hiking/biking trail with a bridge that extends across the lake.  Recreation Area Superintendent, Leonard Boryca, said, “The hiking/biking trail also offers a box culvert which allows walkers/bikers to cross under Highway 91, providing safe access to both parts of the 557-acre recreation area.”

Fishing is also popular at the lake.  Boryca continued, “The lake is stocked by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission with largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie.  Stream improvements were also part of the project, providing fish habitat in the stream above the reservoir and other in-lake fish habitat improvements as well as upland and wetland wildlife habitat.”

Boryca added, “Habitat tree plantings were started before the area opened, and new plantings are added each year to increase shade.  It’s a new area, but it’s blossoming into a beautiful place for people who love the outdoors.”

The Maple Creek Recreation Area was part of the original Maple Creek Watershed project.  In 2000, the Village Board of Leigh requested that the LENRD reconsider this structure.  Feasibility studies by Olsson Associates were favorable and funding was obtained from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources through the Nebraska Resources Development Fund, from the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission through the Motorboat Access Fund, from the Nebraska Department of Roads for Highway 91, and from the LENRD.

Chemigation permits are due June 1st

Farmers planning to chemigate during the 2019 growing season must renew chemigation permits by June 1 to meet state deadline requirements, according to Josh Schnitzler, Water Resources Coordinator for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).

Chemigation is the application of any chemical, fertilizer or pesticide through an irrigation system. To legally chemigate in Nebraska, an operator must be certified to apply chemicals and obtain a chemigation permit from their local NRD.

"Farmers holding chemigation permits, even if they are uncertain whether they will chemigate later this year, should consider renewing their permits by June 1," Schnitzler said.  Schnitzler is encouraging area producers to reapply by the state-required deadline to avoid the increased cost and possible delays of an inspection.

An irrigation system that has not been renewed prior to the June 1 deadline cannot apply chemicals through the system until a new permit is obtained.  Chemigation renewal permits cost $20.  New chemigation permits cost $50, and the applicant cannot use the system until it passes a mandatory inspection.  All permits must be submitted to the LENRD office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk. 

By renewing a permit by June 1, a producer may proceed with chemigation. An inspection does not have to be performed prior to chemigation for a renewal application, Schnitzler said.  However, a random chemigation inspection may be necessary later in the season as part of the LENRD's routine summer inspections as required by state law.

Applicants must have the signature of a certified applicator on their application form.  Schnitzler stated, “In order to be certified, a person must complete a chemigation safety course and pass an exam once every four years.”

If chemigating is necessary, on short notice, emergency permits can be obtained at a cost of $250.  Irrigation systems meeting chemigation law standards will then be allowed to operate within 72 hours.

Approximately 2,016 chemigation permits were approved by the LENRD in 2018.  For more information on renewing or obtaining chemigation permits, call the Lower Elkhorn NRD at 371-7313.

Position available at the Logan East Rural Water System

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is accepting applications for the full-time position of Rural Water System Assistant of the Logan East Rural Water System.  The Logan East RWS office is located in Oakland, Nebraska and serves approximately 1200 customers in Burt, Washington and Dodge Counties.

The position involves skilled mechanical and technical work in the installation and repair of water services and meters.  Must possess applicable Nebraska Water Operator Certificates or the ability to obtain such certification within six months of employment.  The Assistant is required to live in Oakland or the immediate area.

To apply for this position, send a letter of application and current resume by June 7, 2019 to: Mike Sousek, General Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1508 Square Turn Blvd., Norfolk NE 68701.

Job Requirements

Bazile Groundwater Management Area receives grant from NET

The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) will receive $228,500 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Development of Research and Demonstration Sites in the BGMA for Groundwater Nitrate Reduction” project. The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its meeting on April 4, 2019 in Lincoln. This is the first year of award with a potential for 2nd and 3rd year funding totaling $209,500 and $209,500 respectively. The project is one of the 117 projects receiving $19,501,444 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. Of these, 85 were new applications and 32 are carry-over projects.

Located in northeastern Nebraska, the BGMA was formed collaboratively between the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (NRD), Upper Elkhorn NRD, Lower Niobrara NRD, Lewis and Clark NRD, and Department of Environmental Quality to address high nitrate levels in the area. Since its formation in 2013, the BGMA has been dedicated to increasing education of agricultural producers and increasing the implementation of best management practices. To further this effort, the BGMA has partnered with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Water Center, part of the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska to design the proposed project. This project will develop three advanced nitrogen and water management research and demonstration sites, conduct annual field days and educational meetings, and provide an analysis of the success of various water and nitrogen application methods utilized. Through innovative education and demonstration, this project will encourage widespread adoption of improved practices, positively impacting ground and surface water quality and soil management. This project is a vital step forward in stabilizing, and eventually reducing, nitrate levels within the BGMA as experts in natural resource management, with the help of NET, target this serious issue.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $305 million in grants to over 2,200 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.

Bazile Groundwater Management Area

"Stars, Strolls, & S'mores" events taking place across the area this summer

NORFOLK AREA - The Norfolk area is full of opportunities to explore the nature of Nebraska.  The Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District, and the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau want to help you discover your area trails, lakes, and wild places while highlighting the unique opportunities nighttime offers with our FREE Moon Walk event, “Stars, Strolls & S’mores.”

Traci Jeffrey, Director of the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau, said, “The purpose of the moon walk is to provide a family-oriented activity that introduces the cultural and natural history of our area trails and lakes.”

The Moon Walks will be held on Wednesday evenings close to the full moon and begin at 7:30 p.m. Most Moon Walks last for 1-2 hours.  Participants will walk an average of 1 mile round trip. Each Moon Walk starts with a short introduction of that evening’s program, followed by a hike to a designated area where we enjoy presentations.  Presenters are experts in their field and are from our local community. The evening wraps up with FREE s’mores!

The first event will be held on Wednesday, May 22nd at the Willow Creek State Recreation Area, southwest of Pierce.  Presentations will include Bat mist netting, and a Moon Phase craze.

The second “moon walk” will be Wednesday, June 19th at Skyview Lake in Norfolk.  Presentations will include Telescope 101 – Stargazing App, and Snakes of Nebraska.

The final night will be Wednesday, July 17th at the Oak Valley Wildlife Management Area, southwest of Battle Creek.  Presentations will include night fishing, and the secrets of soils.

Jeffrey added, “Since the events take place close to home, we encourage everyone to join us and bring a friend.”

Event Brochure

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 for more information and an application form.  All applications must be received by Friday, May 24th.

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

Application Form

Deadline to apply for assistance to help with livestock mortality has been extended

Ag producers now have until July 1 to apply for funding to help properly dispose of livestock killed by March blizzard/flooding. 

LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska farmers and ranchers impacted by the “Bomb Cyclone” and raging flood waters this spring are working hard on cleaning up and assessing the damages to their ag operations.  

One of the more significant losses experienced by landowners has been the death of livestock. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has financial assistance available to help landowners cope with the aftermath of livestock losses.

Through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program - commonly referred to as EQIP farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to properly dispose of dead livestock. Applications are being accepted now through July 1. This is an extension of the original sign up periods announced immediately following the flooding/blizzard.

NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson said, “We want to ensure this assistance continues to be available to producers still dealing with the aftermath of this unprecedented and devastating event for Nebraska. NRCS conservationists are available to provide technical and financial assistance to help producers dispose of livestock carcasses in a safe manner.”

Producers who have not already disposed of livestock can apply for EQIP now. Producers can then get a waiver to allow them to begin working to dispose of deceased livestock before having an approved EQIP contract.

“Typically, producers cannot begin working on an EQIP practice before their EQIP contract has been approved. But since this situation is so time-critical, NRCS is encouraging producers to sign up for EQIP first, then submit a waiver to go ahead and begin animal disposal prior to having their EQIP contract approved,” Derickson said.

Producers in the area who suffered other damages due to the blizzard and flooding – such as damaged fencing, water sources, or windbreaks – may also seek assistance from NRCS through general EQIP funding. The sign-up period for general EQIP is continuous and has no cut off application date.

Derickson said, “NRCS is committed to helping producers get back on their feet after these extreme weather events while also ensuring Nebraska’s natural environment remains healthy and productive.”

For more information about the programs and assistance available from NRCS, visit your local USDA Service Center or www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.

LENRD Board works towards protecting communities after flood events

As communities continue to recover from the recent flood events, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is offering a helping hand.  The LENRD’s responsibilities include flood prevention and control as well as prevention of damages from flood water and sediment.

Several communities have come forward for assistance in studying possible solutions to protect their cities and towns from flooding in the future.

The City of Pierce was protected from the flood during the storm due to the Willow Creek dam that held back almost 18,000 acre-feet of water, and by a levee that surrounds a portion of the community.  However, the water that did enter Pierce was from drainage issues within and on the west side of the city.  The city is requesting assistance to complete a drainage study of the area.  The LENRD board of directors directed staff to obtain an estimate for a drainage study and work with the City of Pierce in developing an interlocal agreement to provide 50% of the study cost.

The City of Battle Creek has had a history of flood-related problems.  City officials are asking if the potential flood control projects that were determined feasible in 2014 could be revisited.  The LENRD board of directors have instructed staff to work with the City of Battle Creek in developing a proposal for the board to consider, which would identify the project the city would like to pursue as well as updated construction costs for the potential projects.

The City of Osmond is also requesting assistance from the LENRD.  Massive flooding took place across the city, causing extensive damage.  The LENRD board directed staff to obtain an estimate for a drainage study and to work with the City of Osmond in developing an interlocal agreement to provide 50% of the study cost.

Another project, near Scribner, will stabilize a portion of the stream on the Elkhorn River.  The board instructed the LENRD staff to work with Dodge County and the City of Scribner on the Elkhorn River Streambank Stabilization Project northeast of Scribner.

LENRD Projects Manager, Curt Becker, said, “Other towns or communities who need flood-control assistance should contact the LENRD as soon as possible so funding can be applied for before the deadlines.”

At their April meeting, the Board also approved the Urban Recreation Area Development and Urban Conservation Program applications as recommended by staff.  The communities of Wisner, Craig, and Tilden as well as Lyons-Decatur Northeast High School were among the recipients of cost-share funding for their projects.

In other action, the board approved a grant of $2,083.65 to Madison Public Schools for their Watershed Dynamics Program.  The grant allows the school to continue their summer research program and gives the students hands-on learning in the water resources field.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, May 23rd at 7:30 p.m. at the LENRD office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  Stay connected with the LENRD by subscribing to their monthly emails.

Deadline to apply for Livestock Mortality Initiative is May 1st

One of the most significant losses experienced by Ag producers has been the loss of livestock. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has assistance available to help landowners cope with the aftermath of livestock death. Through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program, commonly referred to as EQIP, the Livestock Mortality Initiative is available. This initiative provides assistance to operators and landowners in Nebraska who suffered heavy livestock losses due to the 2019 floods and blizzard and need help disposing of animal carcasses. Applications are due by this Wednesday, May 1st. Contact your local NRCS office for further assistance.

IMG_0357.JPG

Informational meeting on Flood Resources to be held this Thursday

The Madison, Pierce and Stanton County Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and UNL Extension-Madison County have scheduled an informational meeting regarding resources available to assist farmers and ranchers with the impacts of recent flooding.

The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Nebraska Extension in Madison County Office 1305 S. 13th Street Norfolk, NE 68701. It will begin at 10:00 am.

FSA staff will review basic requirements for programs such as the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP), and farm loan disaster programs.

NRCS staff will cover Disaster Programs available.

Preregistration is not required. For more information on the meeting or regarding the programs noted above, contact the Madison County FSA office at 402-371-5350 ext 2, Pierce County FSA office at 402-329-4996 ext 2 or Stanton County FSA office at 402-439-2166 ext 2.

LENRD promotes Arbor Day with tree sales

In Nebraska, Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in April.  The 147th Anniversary of Arbor Day will be celebrated Friday, April 26th.

Since Nebraska is 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 next 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 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Arbor Day.  Seedlings can be purchased in bundles of 25 for $22.  The LENRD staff will be cleaning out the cooler that day, quantities are limited, and everything must go.

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.

USDA announces sign-up period for updated Conservation Stewardship Program

LINCOLN, NE - The deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2019 is May 10, 2019.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest up to $700 million for new enrollments and contract extensions in fiscal year 2019. The 2018 Farm Bill made several changes to this critical conservation program, which helps agricultural producers take the conservation activities on their farm or ranch to the next level. 

“CSP continues to be a very effective tool for private landowners working to achieve their conservation and management goals,” said Craig Derickson, Nebraska NRCS state conservationist. “It is the largest conservation program in the United States with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled.” 

CSP is a popular program for Nebraska’s ag producers. Over 5.6 million acres are currently under contract in Nebraska. In 2018, over 550 farmers and ranchers enrolled over 1.3 million acres into CSP.

While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by May 10, 2019, to ensure their applications are considered for 2019 funding. 

Changes to the Program 

The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments from now until 2023, and it makes some important improvements to the program. These updates include: 

·         NRCS now enrolls eligible, high ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres. For fiscal year 2019, NRCS can spend up to $700 million in the program, which covers part of the cost for producers implementing new conservation activities and maintaining their existing activities. 

·         Higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations.  

·         CSP now provides specific support for organic and for transitioning to organic production activities and a special grassland conservation initiative for certain producers who have maintained cropland base acres. 

About the Program 

CSP provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of a tribe.  

More Information 

For additional information about CSP, contact your local USDA service center

Funds available to plant severe weather damaged acres to cover crops

LINCOLN, NE – To help manage cropland damaged by Nebraska’s severe spring weather, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing funds to plant cover crops on cropland acres. Producers are encouraged to apply by May 17, 2019, or June 21, 2019 at their local USDA Service Center. 

Nebraska NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson said, “This funding will address resource concerns like erosion and water quality, resulting directly from the March 2019 severe weather damage on cropland acres. Cover crops are an excellent way to provide protection to cropland after conservation work has been completed.  Cover crops can stabilize the soil and improve soil health.”

This funding is available statewide in order to assist the widespread recovery work on cropland acres directly impacted by the severe weather in March.  The highest priority cropland includes land which is unable to be planted with a cash crop and/or harvested in 2019.

Cover crops prevent erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. Cover crops can also potentially be grazed.

Work currently being done to maintain conservation structures as well as sediment removal, debris removal or grading and reshaping can be stabilized and protected from further erosion and damage by planting a cover crop. 

Derickson said, “For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and help restore productivity.”

For more information, visit NRCS at a USDA Service Center, or visit www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov

Introducing the new Extension Educator for the Bazile Groundwater Management Area

Jeremy Milander is the new Bazile Groundwater Management Area Extension Educator for northeast Nebraska.  He will be working with four Natural Resources Districts to develop an educational program aimed at stabilizing the nitrate concentration in groundwater.  Jeremy will also work with a stakeholder group to implement field demonstrations funded by a Nebraska Environmental Trust grant.  

Jeremy grew up near Coleridge, NE and earned his bachelor and master of science degrees in Agronomy at the UNL.  His master’s work included assessing the impact of management practices on the yield components of corn.  He has worked with the soil science program at the Haskell Ag Lab for the past 2 years where he assisted with a cover crop study and a long term tillage and crop rotation study.

Jeremy’s office is located at the Lower Elkhorn NRD Office at 1508 Square Turn Blvd. in Norfolk.  Welcome Jeremy!

Jeremy Milander

Jeremy Milander

Senior Scholarships available from the Lower Elkhorn NRD

This year, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will be offering two $500 scholarships to graduating High School Seniors within the district.  These scholarships are available for students who are planning to further their education in a natural resources or agriculture related field.  See below for further information, eligibility requirements, and the application form. Scholarship information has been sent to all schools within the district boundaries. The deadline for all scholarship applications is April 26, 2019.

Senior Scholarship Criteria:

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District has established a scholarship program for graduating high school seniors. There are two scholarships available amounting to $500 each for two seniors who are planning to further their education in a natural resources or agriculture related field. To be eligible for a scholarship the student must meet the following criteria:

  • The student must be a graduating high school senior who resides or whose family owns land within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District.

  • The student must have an overall grade point average of a 2.0, or higher, on a 4.0 grading scale at the end of the first semester of his/her senior year in high school.

  • The student must attend an accredited college, community college or vocational school the semester following graduation.

  • The student must direct his/her course study towards curriculum related to natural resources or agriculture.

  • The student must submit an application to the Lower Elkhorn NRD by Friday, April 26th.

Application Form