Lower Elkhorn NRD appoints 2 new board members at November meeting

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) has seen a lot of change this year on their board of directors.  At their November meeting, the LENRD Board of Directors appointed two new members.  David Kathol and Jill Barr, both of Norfolk, took the oath of office and joined the other members around the table.

In the November election, David Kathol of rural Norfolk, was elected in Subdistrict 4 to replace Tim Tighe of Humphrey, who did not seek re-election.  The appointment was possible due to Tighe’s early departure from the board last month, resigning just before the end of his term because he had recently relocated outside of the Subdistrict.  Kathol was appointed at the November board meeting to fill the remainder of Tighe’s term, and will begin to serve his elected term in January.

Kathol worked for NPPD for 40 years.  He is now retired and has some time to commit to being a board member.  When applying for the position, Kathol said, “We all need to know the facts about the water under our feet; how geologically it is stored, moves, replenished, and what happens to make wells go dry.”  He added, “We all need to be educated about water law.”

Jill Barr was appointed to Subdistrict 2 to replace Luke Winkelbauer of Norfolk.  Luke recently resigned from the board due to his previous commitments and the time requirements to serve on the board.  Barr has been appointed to fill the remainder of the two-year term.

Barr is a pharmacist at Hy-Vee West in Norfolk.  In her cover letter, she said, “As the granddaughter of one of the founding fathers of Nucor, I understand the importance of resources and how they play a role in the economics of Nebraska.  Industry, agriculture, and municipalities all rely on the water to survive.  All of us rely on it to drink, bathe, and live.  I look forward to being a part of the conversation on how to keep resources sustainable for current and future generations.”

In other action, a public hearing was held for a proposed Chemigation rule change.  The proposed amendment would allow the chemical injection line check valve to be removed during the off-season.  LENRD Water Resources Technician, Josh Schnitzler, said, “By allowing producers to remove the check valve when they are not chemigating, it should prolong the life of the check valve, as the plastic check valves tend to deteriorate quickly when left out year-round.  It should also give producers a chance to inspect the check valve for any defects or animal damage that may have occurred.”  The board subsequently approved the proposed amendment to the LENRD rules for Chemigation and will forward the approved rule and all other necessary documentation to the Director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) for their consideration and approval.  The change would become effective soon after approval of the change from NDEQ.

In other business, the board approved 15 Community Forestry Incentive applications and one Forestry Incentive for Public Facilities application, for a total cost of $39,929.50.

The members also approved the staff recommendations for Conservation Cost-share and Lands for Conservation programs and authorized $500,000 for the 2017 construction season.

A request came from the Norfolk Area Visitors’ Bureau for assistance in providing bike racks on Norfolk trails.  A cost-share program was proposed, and the board voted to fund 50% of the cost of the bike racks to be placed around Norfolk, up to $5,000, with the other 50% to be funded by businesses or other entities.

Each year, the LENRD must determine the maximum number of new groundwater irrigated acres to be allowed for the following year.  The board voted to allow 0 acres of new groundwater irrigation development district-wide under the district’s standard variance process for 2017.  Under the district’s expedited variance process, they voted to allow no transfer of irrigated acres district-wide, but to allow approval of applications of 10 acres or less, if the addition of the requested acres will allow the applicant’s center pivot irrigation system to finish its circle.  They also voted to allow for the approval of qualified good cause variances and to approve a total of no more than 250 new irrigated acres in the hydrologically connected area and no more than 250 irrigated acres in the non-hydrologically connected area for expedited variance applications located outside of the district’s quantity subareas for 2017.  In addition, the board directed the staff to allow for the approval of supplemental wells, only in situations where the certified irrigated acres have been severed from the source of groundwater.  LENRD Water Resources Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “In summary, this policy is identical to the allowable development that had been in place in the LENRD for 2016.  District staff members are continuing to develop the framework for further expansion of irrigated acres in defined areas within the district by 2018."

Bids were received and reviewed to select contractors to perform flow meter maintenance and installation inspections for the district.  The board approved 2 proposals, and authorized the general manager to enter into contracts with the firms.  They approved the proposal from Buchanan Well, Inc. of Osmond, for the northern area of the district to perform the maintenance on an estimated 443 flow meters at $46 per site for a total of $20,378.00.  The other proposal approved was with Derek Becker and Austin Becker of Norfolk, for the southern area of the district at $50 per unit for an estimated 434 flow meters for a total of $21,700.00.

The LENRD officially shared their new logo with the public this week.  It brings together their mission of conserving and protecting water, soil, and trees.  Check it out on their website and social media.

The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, December 15th at 7:30 p.m.