LENRD enacts controls in three counties


By GREG WEES gwees@norfolkdailynews.com The Norfolk Daily News

Proposed controls intended to lessen conflicts between owners of domestic wells and irrigation wells in parts of Madison, Stanton and Pierce counties first were tweaked.

Then they became official as the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District board Thursday in Norfolk adopted new rules creating groundwater quantity subareas.

The changes ensued after two earlier meetings, a public hearing and an outpouring of comments over the last several weeks.

“We hope it’s an equitable solution for all. That was our intention,’’ board chairman Rod Zessin of Madison said after the board voted on the rules after a three-hour meeting in front of about 150 people.

One amendment removed the north half of Chapin Township in Wayne County from the subarea. The other change added a public hearing on the new rules in six years, though it’s possible adjustments will be made year-to-year depending on drought conditions.

Standard controls for all subareas are allowing no new irrigated acres, prohibiting off-season irrigation between Sept. 15 and April 15 (unless the NRD is notified it’s for a crop like winter wheat or a cover crop) and requiring four hours of education for irrigators.

The controls also include meters on irrigation wells and requiring new and replacement domestic wells to be deep enough to lessen the likelihood they’ll be affected by irrigation.

However, only two of the four subareas have an allocation limit on how much irrigation water can be used and requiring meters by this May. The other areas have no allocation, and meters don’t have to be in place until May 2014.

The NRD may penalize violations by reducing the irrigation allocation or requiring additional educational requirements.

Before Thursday’s vote, the board heard from attorney David Domina of Omaha, representing some irrigators, who said the meter issue is the biggest concern, and that NRD staff should have flexibility to determine what technology qualifies to measure water used.

But Rick Wozniak, the NRD’s water resources manager, said the existing rules are for in-line flow meters, a proven technology.

Wozniak said allocations were determined by plugging historical data from wells at Elgin and Concord into a model from the University of Nebraska.

“The goal is to make sure in most years a person would have enough water to irrigate . . .  to discourage excessive use,’’ he said.

The rules are a reaction to the ongoing drought that, last year, spawned nearly 140 conflicts between high-volume irrigation wells and shallower domestic wells, which went dry.

Board members rejected spending another $50,000 for domestic well assistance, which has offered up to $1,500 to fix or replace an affected well. The NRD already has provided about $115,000 for the program. Instead, the board voted to fund only the eight pending applications.

The NRD had originally proposed three subareas but ended up with four:

— Battle Creek Subarea takes in all of Battle Creek Township, requires measuring devices by May 2014 and has no allocation of irrigation.

— Pierce County Subarea is Cleveland and Clover Valley Townships, requires measuring devices by May 2014 and has no allocation of irrigation.

— Eastern Madison County Subarea is all of Union and Warnerville Townships, requires measuring devices by this May and allocates 14 acres-inches for sprinkler systems, 18 inches for gravity irrigation and 13 inches for subsurface drip irrigation.

— Wayne County Subarea is the southern half of Chapin Township and all of Hancock, Brenna, Plum Creek and Strahan Townships and Sections 25 through 36 of Hunter and Wilbur Townships. Measuring devices are to be on by this May. Allocation is 13 acre-inches for sprinkler systems, 17 inches for gravity irrigation and 12 inches for subsurface drip irrigation.

In other action, the board:

— Appealed the rejection by the Federal Emergency Management Agency of its application for funds for a diversion channel at Battle Creek. The agency said that bridge construction, which is part of the project, isn’t eligible.

— Set a public hearing for Thursday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. on a plan to establish a rural water system improvement project area in Madison County, including the land that’s now in the new groundwater quantity subarea.

— Approved a request from the Village of Howells to pay half, or $22,500, of the cost for an engineering agreement with JEO Consulting to complete the reaccreditation of the town’s flood levee.

—  Authorized staff to seek bids and contract for construction of a marina at the Willow Creek State Recreation Area.

 — Agreed to advertise for bids for a steel maintenance building at Maple Creek Recreation Area.

— Elected Joel Hansen of Wayne, chairman; Danny Kluthe of Dodge, vice chairman; Dennis Schultz of Wisner, secretary; and Mike Krueger of Pierce, treasurer. Ken Peitzmeier of Norfolk was elected delegate to the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts.