West Point High School takes first place at the Northeast Area FFA Land Judging Contest near Leigh

The Northeast Area FFA Land Judging Contest was held Tuesday, October 8th near Leigh. 436 students from 24 high schools registered that morning at the Colfax County Fairgrounds in Leigh before traveling to the testing site.  The contest was held on ground owned by Terry Kudera, six miles north of Leigh on Hwy 57 and 2 west.

A team from West Point High School finished first with the top score of 977 points.  Team members are:  Evie Schlickbernd, Paige Rolf, Emmie Dvorak, and Aspen Lund.

A team from Pender High School placed second with a score of 970.  Third place went to North Bend with a score of 929 points.  Teams from North Bend and West Point came in 4th and 5th.  The top 6 teams that will participate in the State competition are from West Point, Pender, North Bend, Blair, Logan View, and Wisner-Pilger.  The State Land Judging competition will take place in the Tecumseh area on October 23rd.

The top individual award went to Paige Rolf of West Point with a total score of 361.  Katelyn Smith of Logan View was second, Dalton Blaha of North Bend was third, Hannah Murray of North Bend was fourth, and Charles Schmedding of Pender came in fifth.

The site provided good diversity in soils and landscape positions for the students.  The contest helps the students make informed decisions regarding soil utilization in the future.  Scoring was completed the following day at the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) office in Norfolk.

The high schools participating were:  Allen, Blair, Elkhorn Valley-Tilden, Emerson-Hubbard, Howells-Dodge, Humphrey, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Clarkson-Leigh, Logan View, Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Newman Grove, Norfolk, North Bend, Oakland-Craig, Osmond, Pender, Pierce, Randolph, Scribner-Snyder, Stanton, Tekamah-Herman, Wayne, West Point-Beemer, and Wisner-Pilger.

The LENRD, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Leigh High School, and the Nebraska FFA Land Judging Committee organized and sponsored the contest.

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LENRD requests proposals for flow meter maintenance

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to provide inspection and preventative maintenance services for all propeller-driven, analog display irrigation well flow meters (Propeller Meters) installed in the District. This project includes the provision of all labor, equipment and expertise to perform preventative maintenance services for an estimated 880 flow meters located within the District by April 15, 2020.

These inspection and preventative maintenance services include, but are not limited to: a physical examination and evaluation of proper flow meter installation and operation; removal of the flow meter to evaluate the condition of the propeller and bearings; reinstallation of the meter after greasing its bearings and replacing the saddle gasket; documentation of all inspection; maintenance findings and activities through photos and reports in a format provided by the LENRD; and application of an LENRD maintenance sticker to the Propeller Meter. The LENRD will supply grease, gaskets and other preventative maintenance supplies for this project.

These inspection and maintenance activities will be performed during the non-growing season, which is from October through April. Payment for these services will be negotiated between the District and the contractor but not more frequently than monthly for each completed inspection.

The District is seeking to have the Propeller Meters within Pierce County serviced (see the map below).

The full RFP is below. If you have any questions please contact Curt or Brian at the LENRD office (402) 371-7313 or by email at cbecker@lenrd.org or bbruckner@lenrd.org

Proposals must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 to the LENRD office.

Request for Proposal

Map

Two instructors from Madison High receive Educators of the Year Award

Two instructors from Madison High School received the Educators of the Year Award from the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD).

Suzy Foley and Patrick Kratochvil, both science teachers at Madison High, were recently honored at the NARD Annual Conference held at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.  The awards were presented by Jim Johnson, Chairman of the NARD Information & Education Committee, and NARD President Larry Reynolds.

The two were nominated by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) for their work in developing the Taylor-Union Watershed Team.  The team was started in the summer of 2011 to introduce minority students to fieldwork in science and to see how the concepts taught in the classroom can be used in real work situations.

Kratochvil said, “A total of eight sites on the Taylor and Union Creeks are tested once a month on consecutive days from June through August. The water quality is calculated based on the Water Quality Index (WQI) System, developed by the National Sanitation Federation.  Macro-invertebrates are also studied, allowing us to obtain a more complete survey of the Taylor and Union Creeks.  A macro-invertebrate count is made giving a water quality rating based on a formula developed by the Nebraska Wildlife Federation’s Adopt-a-Stream program.”

Kratochvil added, “Through the project we are using a cross-curricular strategy, which includes science, language arts, math and technology. This project also teaches the students about the different areas of science including Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science, and Chemistry.”

Suzy Foley said, “We have students that started as young as incoming 6th graders and have continued through their first year of college. Through this process we have seen that the skills learned lead to higher achievement on tests such as the ACT and a more diverse set of skills for the job market.”

Foley added, “Students use their critical thinking skills while collecting and analyzing the samples collected during the Watershed class.  Excel is used to analyze the data that has been gathered throughout the summer and from past summers.  Once the data is entered, we generate graphs to visually display the information.  This allows the students to obtain a better grasp of the information they have collected.  They also create a Power Point presentation to share with the Madison Public School Board of Education, local community groups, the LENRD Board of Directors, and local Universities and Colleges.”

Kratochvil commented, “Each year we have some of the students involved in the program go to the Middle School and do a presentation about what the program is and how it’s exciting and fun as well as educational.  This is one way that we keep recruiting students into the program.”

LENRD Information & Education Specialist, Julie Wragge, said, “I was happy to nominate such a great team of leaders for our youth.  I have worked with Suzy and Patrick for a long time and they continue to step it up each year as they grow their program.  I’m very proud of the partnership the LENRD has developed with Madison Public Schools.  We congratulate Suzy and Patrick on this very deserving award.”

The Watershed Team has also become involved with the “Know Your Well” program through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the Nebraska Water Center.  The students have had to gain an understanding of how land and water conservation apply to real world situations.  In this project, the students collect well samples from rural drinking wells in the area.  They run tests on the water and reports are given to the well owners with a discussion about the results.  Students were given the task of trying to discover where any possible contaminants came from.

The Taylor-Union Watershed Team has received grants from the LENRD, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Groundwater Foundation, and Farmland.

Patrick lives in Albion, and is originally from Pierce.  Suzy lives in Madison, and is originally from Blair.

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Cover Crops Perform Double Duty

By: Dan Gillespie, NRCS No-till Specialist

Anyone could agree that the 2019 crop season has been one of extremes.  The Bomb Cyclone brought the incredible runoff event that led to thousands of acres of prevented planting.  The wet weather persisted well into the planting season.  Then in early June Mother Nature shut the rainfall spigot off on some folks while opening it wide on others.

Cover crops proved they have an ability to pull “double duty” this crop season.  While the soil was too cool, wet and saturated to work or plant, the cereal rye covers that love that kind of weather kept on growing, using up that excess moisture, growing vegetative cover and root biomass, and drying out the soil so it could warm up and be planted.

How is that ground cover duty important?  For those who caught the extra rainfall in June and July, the cover crop “armored” the soil surface with residue that deflected the impact of the rain drops and prevented detachment of the soil particles.  This allowed the soil surface pores to stay open to infiltrate and store the rainfall instead of allowing it to run off.

For those who had the rain spigot shut off, the cover crop vegetative biomass shielded the soil surface from direct sunshine that heats the soil surface up and reduced the wind that can evaporate moisture from the soil surface rapidly. This is especially important early in the crop season before the corn and soybean plants canopy. 

Meanwhile, the below ground root biomass likely quadrupled in mass in the extra few weeks the cover crop grew, exuding plant sugars and feeding the soil biology.  The roots of a 4-6 inch tall rye cover crop can extend 12-18 inches deep, while a 12-18 inch tall plant can explore up to three feet deep into the soil profile.

When the cover crop is terminated the roots die and begin to desiccate, shrinking as they degrade.  This creates a channel for water to penetrate and move into the topsoil.  The drying roots re-hydrate during a rain event and slow the movement of the soil water through the profile, making it available to the cash crop plant roots for a longer period of time.

In coarse, sandy soils the ability of the cover crop root biomass to slow down and hold on to soil water is an important duty the cover crop performs.  The coarse soils contain less organic matter, so the cover crop roots don’t biodegrade as quickly, creating a soil sponge effect that benefits the sandy soils longer into the season.  The plants get a few extra days shot at the water and more importantly the nitrates that could otherwise leach into the groundwater.

Many of you have already had your cover crops seeded by broadcasting aerially or with a ground driven high boy spreader.  The optimum time for seeding mixes that contain brassicas or legumes is past, as there isn’t enough biological time for them to grow enough to produce their desired effects.  Cereal rye, triticale or wheat are still a good choice to go with later in the year as it will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 34 degrees and start growing early in the spring.

Plant “green” the next spring and let the cover crop grow a little longer and give it time to provide more of its benefits.  If you have irrigation you can allow for even more cover crop growth as you are able to replace moisture used by the cover crop in exchange for the soil health boost the additional cover crop biomass provides.

Be thinking about planting cover crops as you prepare for harvest.  Integrating cover crops into a continuous no-till cropping system will accelerate the formation of soil organic matter and save soil, water and time.  

Contact your local NRCS office or the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District to obtain more information on cost share opportunities to put those “Double Duty” cover crops to work on your farm.

Pierce County farmer Steve Keck received excess moisture this spring and decided to plant soybeans into a “green” rye cover crop, letting the cereal rye cover crop grow longer before terminating it to utilize excess soil moisture and dry the soil for planting. If you have irrigation you can allow for more cover crop growth as you are able to replace moisture used by the cover crop in exchange for the soil health boost the additional biomass provides.

Pierce County farmer Steve Keck received excess moisture this spring and decided to plant soybeans into a “green” rye cover crop, letting the cereal rye cover crop grow longer before terminating it to utilize excess soil moisture and dry the soil for planting. If you have irrigation you can allow for more cover crop growth as you are able to replace moisture used by the cover crop in exchange for the soil health boost the additional biomass provides.

Taken August 12th, 2019, this picture shows Steve Keck in a healthy bean field. The biodegrading rye under the soybean plants is filling the crop canopy with carbon dioxide from the respiring soil biology. This makes the time the plant’s stomata are open to gather carbon dioxide the plant needs for photosynthesis shorter, resulting in less water vapor lost in transpiration and improved water use efficiency.

Taken August 12th, 2019, this picture shows Steve Keck in a healthy bean field. The biodegrading rye under the soybean plants is filling the crop canopy with carbon dioxide from the respiring soil biology. This makes the time the plant’s stomata are open to gather carbon dioxide the plant needs for photosynthesis shorter, resulting in less water vapor lost in transpiration and improved water use efficiency.

Dan Gillespie receives Master Conservationist Award

Dan Gillespie of Battle Creek was recently honored with the Master Conservationist Award.  The Master Conservationist Awards recognize people and organizations who excel in managing and conserving Nebraska’s water and soil.  The awards are sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The award was recently presented to Dan at the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Annual Conference at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.  The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) assisted in nominating Dan for this award in the Agriculture category.

Dan began experimenting with no-till corn into soybean stubble in 1986 on his farm south of Meadow Grove.  Since 1991, he has practiced Continuous No-Till Farming on all his 412 corn-soybean acres.  Dan was the first one to start no-tilling in the area.

After continuous no-till for 13 years, Dan began planting cover crops in the fall of 2005 in response to intense rainfall events.  He has planted cereal rye cover crops on all soybean stubble acres since 2006 while also experimenting with legumes and brassicas in seed mixtures. After several years of utilizing aerial application, he has settled on drilling all cover crops after harvest.

In the spring of 2007, the Battle Creek watershed endured a seven-inch rainfall. Dan was able to plant in his cover cropped field only three days later while having no need to repair any waterways or flow areas.  No sediment left the 11-16% slopes on his farm with valuable nutrients and he maximized his rainfall infiltration and storage in the soil profile. Dan said, “I haven’t repaired a concentrated flow area in the fields since I implemented continuous cover cropping.  I believe the top benefit or return on my conservation investments is the elimination of soil erosion.  The regeneration of my cropland soils has allowed me to spend less on fertilizer, herbicide and irrigation inputs.”

In the spring of 2012, Dan drilled soybeans into the green, living cereal rye he had planted the previous fall and let both soybeans and rye cover crop grow until cover crop termination in May. The practice worked well, yields were excellent, and he has continued to utilize this practice. He is one of the leaders in the state regarding “planting green.”

In the fall of 2012, Dan drilled the flow areas (high probability of soil erosion) in his corn fields with a bushel of rye per acre. The concept was to augment the residue cover from the corn crop in the stable flow areas with a living root system. The fields were drilled to soybeans in spring 2013 and the cover crop in the flow areas was left to grow until the first herbicide application.  Dan said, “The practice worked very well and is now used for treating ephemeral gully problems by many farmers.”

Dan’s use of soil moisture monitoring with telemetry gives him real time available water capacity for the crop, allowing him to take advantage of the increased infiltration and water storage capabilities that healthy soils provide. Dan has averaged 5.14” of irrigation water on corn and 4.94” on soybeans annually since installation of flow meters and adoption of electronic soil moisture monitoring.  The reduction in applied irrigation has also reduced issues with fungal diseases in Dan’s cornfields. He has not applied a fungicide to his corn since the implementation of soil moisture monitoring.  Dan added, “I have cut back on N application as the soil organic matter improves and increased soil biological activity continues to mineralize nitrogen at greater rates.”

The 2% soil organic matter improvement in Dan’s fields allows him to infiltrate intense rainfall events and store that moisture in the soil profile. That 2% additional soil organic matter can store an additional 1.5 inches of rainfall in the soil profile, releasing it to the crop as needed and this happens repeatedly through the year.  Dan added, “Night crawler populations are a good soil health indicator and have gained rapidly since the implementation of cover crops. The macropores they create when burrowing add significantly to the infiltration rate for rainfall and irrigation water in the field.”

Dan had 30 acres of cropland in CRP from 1981 through 2001 and enrolled 20 acres into Pollinator CRP in 2015-2016 to enhance habitat for pollinators. The 30 acres of CRP, returned to crop production, routinely out yields the cropland next to it due to the soil organic matter improvements from CRP years.

When you visit with Dan about his farming practices, he says, “I want to leave the land in better shape than it was in when I started farming it.”

Julie Wragge, LENRD Information & Education Specialist, said, “His credibility comes from experience. Dan wouldn’t ask another farmer to do something that he hasn’t tried and proven himself.  Speaking to agri-business groups, soil health workshops, No-till Conferences and Expos, college classes, high schools and grade schools, Dan has spoken to or presented to over 18,000 people since 2012.”  Wragge added, “Dan is very deserving of this high honor.  He continues to ‘sell’ conservation to everyone he encounters.”

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Wonderful World of Water program celebrates 30 years

The 30th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Water Festival was held September 18 at Gilman Park in Pierce.  Eighteen teams of ninth and tenth grade students from 11 schools across Northeast Nebraska descended upon the park for a day of outdoor hands on activities and a chance to compete for championship honors. 

The day began with registration at Gilman Park followed by the teams competing in a track of hands-on activities focusing on water quality and other natural resources related issues.  The teams were then quizzed regarding those sessions to accumulate points for the competition.  Following the educational sessions, the teams were given one last chance to extend their point totals by participating in the Dripial Pursuit Trivia Game.  Then while the final totals were being calculated each team was given the opportunity to participate in the Wonderful World of Water special project.

The special project was Water Rockets, which is, a program taught through the Jr. Academy of Sciences.  Each school was invited to build water rockets and demonstrate their knowledge of mass, velocity and engineering.  The rockets were judged on distance and creativity.  Several rockets were launched Wednesday with prizes being awarded to Pierce High School Team 2 for Farthest Distance Traveled; Allen High School Team 2 for Shortest Distance Traveled; and, Elgin High School for Most Creative Design.    

Following the presentation of the special projects the winners of the 2019 Northeast Nebraska Wonderful World of Water were announced.  The winner of Track 1 was Winside High School consisting of DeAndre Redwing, Jake Bargstadt, Tyler Carlson, McKenna Russell, Michah Stenwall and Dax Behmer.  The winning team from Track 2 was Pierce High School Team 2 consisting of Zach Price, Nich Erickson, Alexus Sindelar, Larissa Meier and Nicholas Lienemann.  Both First Place teams were awarded 30th Anniversary Wonderful World of Water T-shirts.   

Schools participating in this year’s event included; Orchard High School, Niobrara High School, Pierce High School, Elgin High School, Wausa High School, Allen Consolidated, Winside High School, Ewing High School, Norfolk Catholic High School, Lyons-Decatur High School and Madison High School. 

The Wonderful World of Water program would not be possible without our many natural resources professionals from across the area who volunteer their time each year to share their expertise; and, work with students who might be interested in a career related to natural resources.  They come from a variety of agencies including:  The Natural Resources Conservation Service; UNL Cooperative Extension; Game and Parks; Northern Prairies Land Trust; Papio-Missouri River NRD; and, Lower Platte North NRD.  The Wonderful World of Water was sponsored this year by:  the Upper Elkhorn NRD; Lower Elkhorn NRD; Lower Niobrara NRD; Lewis and Clark NRD; and, Nucor.

Jason Thiele, Wildlife Biologist with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and Patrick Cowsert, Soil Scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, visit with students about the importance of wetland plants and animals as they examine portions of Gilman Park in Pierce. Eleven High Schools were represented at the 30th Anniversary of   Wonderful World of Water  , a competition for 9th and 10th graders.

Jason Thiele, Wildlife Biologist with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and Patrick Cowsert, Soil Scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, visit with students about the importance of wetland plants and animals as they examine portions of Gilman Park in Pierce. Eleven High Schools were represented at the 30th Anniversary of Wonderful World of Water, a competition for 9th and 10th graders.

LENRD budget reflects flood reduction projects and lower property valuations

The fiscal year 2020 budget for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) calls for a slight increase in the property tax levy.

LENRD General Manger, Mike Sousek, said, “Last year the tax levy was the lowest it had been in 45 years.  The slight increase is the result of flood reduction projects stemming from the March floods as well as the lower property valuations across the district.”

After months of discussions, the operating budget was approved by the LENRD board of directors at their September 12th meeting with a tax request of $4,332,004, an increase of $59,276 from last year or a 1.4% increase.  The overall operating expenditures show a 38% increase of $2,923,383 from last year.

Sousek, said, “For the past 7 years there has been a decrease in property tax asking, reaching a historic low in 2018.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to continue decreasing the tax levy year after year.  With the 1.4% increase this year, we are expanding our public awareness of our 12 responsibilities and have more projects and programs on the table to meet the challenges of natural resources management.”

The estimated levy, based on the property tax request, is 2.370 cents per $100 of valuation, which is a slight increase from the fiscal year 2019 levy of 2.314 cents per $100 of valuation.  For example, if a person owns a $300,000 house, the taxes owed to the LENRD would have been $69.42 in 2019 and will be approximately $71.10 in 2020.

Sousek, added, “We continue to maximize the use of our local funds, by bringing in grant money to subsidize our projects.  The funds received by the LENRD are returned to the citizens of the district, through projects, programs, and studies across all or parts of 15-counties in northeast Nebraska.”

Some of the major expenditures for FY 2020 include:  Levee and Flood Protection Projects - $1,858,150; Water Resources Programs - $622,000; Project Construction (including flood related repairs) - $983,000; and Conservation Cost-Share programs, including the Bazile Groundwater Management Area Project and Willow Creek Best Management Practices - $696,500.

Other area conservation benefits include:  water quality and quantity programs such as groundwater management, flood control, and nitrate management; as well as erosion control, cost-share to landowners who apply for conservation practices, recreation areas and trails, urban recreation and community forestry programs, and many other benefits that protect our natural resources.

Nebraska coalition hails repeal of 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule

Nebraska Farm Bureau press release:

LINCOLN, NEB. – A wide ranging Nebraska-based coalition made up of farmers, homebuilders, businesses, bankers, general contractors, golf course managers, electric systems, and local government agencies is praising the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer repeal of the 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) Rule. The agencies’ action is a key step forward to bringing an end to a four-year battle in which the groups worked to stop a regulation representing one of the largest expansions of federal authority over private land in U.S. history.

“This is a landmark victory for private property owners and those who support private property rights. This is also a major win for states, including Nebraska, who had argued the WOTUS Rule had gone too far in attempting to infringe upon states’ rights to manage waters under their jurisdiction,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

The 2015 WOTUS Rule would have redefined the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the federal Clean Water Act, and in the process, expanded the scope of waters subject to federal regulation, as well as expand powers to regulate land and land features that collect and convey waters.

“Today’s announcement is a result of Nebraskans working together. There is no doubt the repeal of this rule would not have happened if not for the work of our coalition, its partners, our

national counterparts, and the efforts of our elected leaders,” said Bryan Slone, President of Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We thank the administration and greatly appreciate the work of Governor Ricketts, Nebraska Attorney General Peterson, Congressmen Fortenberry, Bacon, and Smith, as well as the efforts of Senator Fischer and Senator Sasse in preventing Nebraskans from feeling the impacts of this misguided regulatory effort,” said Dean Edson, Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts.

In light of the massive pushback, President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 to start the process for repealing the 2015 Rule. As a part of the rollback, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a replacement regulation for the 2015 WOTUS rule in December of 2018. The new rule is currently under development following a public input period that ended earlier this year. Separately, several legal challenges, including one with involvement by the state of Nebraska, had been filed against the 2015 Rule.

“We continue to provide support and input to the agencies as they develop a more common- sense approach to provide protections for U.S. waters that won’t infringe on individual rights or those of local and state authorities,” said Larry Dix, Nebraska Association of County Officials executive director. “We’re committed to being part of a positive solution. The repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule is a critical piece of the puzzle as we work with the agencies on a better path forward.”

Common Sense Nebraska is a Nebraska-based coalition consisting of organizations and entities that have come together in response to EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal which would harm both rural and urban Nebraskans through expansion of EPA’s powers and authorities under the federal Clean Water Act. The coalition’s purpose is to build awareness and understanding of the EPA proposal and the impacts it would have on Nebraskans.

Common Sense Nebraska Coalition members include:

Association of General Contractors - NE Chapter

Farm Credit Services of America

Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association

National Federation of Independent Businesses/Nebraska

Nebraska Agribusiness Association

Nebraska Association of County Officials

Nebraska Association of Resource Districts

Nebraska Bankers Association

Nebraska Cattlemen

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Nebraska Club Management Association

Nebraska Cooperative Council

Nebraska Corn Board

Nebraska Corn Growers Association

Nebraska Farm Bureau

Nebraska Golf Course Superintendents Association

Nebraska Grain and Feed Association

Nebraska Grain Sorghum Association

Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board

Nebraska Pork Producers Association

Nebraska Poultry Industries

Nebraska Rural Electric Association

Nebraska Soybean Association

Nebraska State Dairy Association

Nebraska State Home Builders Association

Nebraska State Irrigation Association

Nebraska Water Resources Association

Nebraska Wheat Board

Nebraska Wheat Growers Association

Nemaha Natural Resources District

Pawnee County Rural Water District #1

Public hearing to certify irrigated acres is September 26th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will conduct public hearings and certify irrigated acres on September 26, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. These hearings will be held at the LENRD office located at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  The attached list of individuals are those who have fields in the Certification Hearing.  If questions arise, please contact Mike Murphy at 402-371-7313.

Fields to be Certified

Public Hearing Policy

Contested Hearing Form

Cover Crop seeding demonstration is September 20th near Creighton

Are you looking for another alternative when planting cover crops?  Does the harvest season time-crunch limit your ability to fully capitalize on the long-term benefits of using cover crops?  If you answered yes to either of those questions, you’ll want to attend the field demonstration on Friday, September 20th near Creighton.

The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) project team, along with the Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy, have teamed up to demonstrate an additional seeding option for producers using a high-clearance applicator.

BGMA Extension Educator, Jeremy Milander, said, “With the high clearance applicator, cover crops can be planted before harvest and the seed to soil contact will improve germination success as compared to aerial seeding.  It is hypothesized that the pre-harvest planting of cover crops will allow for earlier germination and growth, which ultimately means greater biomass production.”  He added, “This early growth will help to armor the soil and the grower may also be able to improve germination by capitalizing on late season precipitation or crop irrigation events.”

The high-clearance applicator is equipped with a pneumatic seeding unit and in-the-row drop nozzles.  This concept allows for the late-season application of seed into a standing crop; but will eliminate some of the seed loss or drift that can sometimes occur when applying cover crop seed using an aerial method. 

Do you want to see it for yourself?  The project team has secured 3 demonstration plots located within the Bazile Groundwater Management Area.  Don’t miss the seeding demonstration on Friday, September 20th at 10:30 a.m. at the Jim Fuchtman farm, east of Creighton.  Meet at Midwest Seed of Creighton at 53105 HWY 59.  Stop by and watch the machine in action.  Lunch will be served at Midwest Seed after the demonstration.

The other cooperating producers with demonstration plots are Albert Friedrich of Plainview, NE, and Garrett, Mark, and Scott Carpenter of Creighton, NE. 

Cover crops prevent erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, sequester excess nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the water infiltration and water-holding capacity, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits.  Contact your local NRD office for more information.

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Sign-up begins October 1st for new irrigated acres

Landowners within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, will have an opportunity to apply for new irrigated acres in some portions of the District, beginning Oct. 1st.

The LENRD board voted, at their August meeting, to allow up to 450 acre-feet of new depletions, in accordance with their Voluntary Integrated Management Plan for irrigation development in the Hydrologically Connected or 10/50 Area, and to allow up to 2,500 acres of new groundwater irrigation development in the Non-Hydrologically Connected or Non 10/50 Area under the district’s standard variance process.  An approved variance is a requirement for any expansion of irrigated acres in the LENRD, whether from an existing or new irrigation well.

Geographic portions of the district that are eligible to be considered for standard variances are areas that fall within the top three categories of the classification map.  A map of the eligible locations will be available at the LENRD office in Norfolk by no later than Friday, August 30th.

Excluded from consideration for this sign-up period will be any parcel of land located in any Quantity Management Subarea or Phase 3 Area located within the LENRD.

LENRD Assistant Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The board also approved the scoring sheets used by staff when processing applications and reauthorized use of the Conditions for Approval policy, which has accompanied approved variances each of the last two years.  In addition, a minimum soil score of 90 must be met for any standard variance to be considered for approval.”

The board established a sign-up period to receive applications for Standard Variances from October 1st, 2019 through October 31st, 2019. Application forms will be available online and in the office beginning October 1st.

Map - Irrigation Development Areas

Standard Variance Application Form 

Bazile Groundwater Management Area seeks Project Coordinator

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is accepting applications for the full-time position of Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) Project Coordinator.

The Project Coordinator will work independently to educate and encourage the adoption of best management practices in an attempt to improve groundwater quality and quantity within the Bazile Groundwater Management Area of Pierce, Knox and Antelope Counties. The Coordinator will be headquartered at the LENRD office in Norfolk.

For more information about the position, please e-mail msousek@lenrd.org. To apply for this position, send a letter of application and current resume by September 10, 2019 to: Mike Sousek; General Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1508 Square Turn Blvd., Norfolk NE 68701.

Job Description 

 

LENRD Board discusses groundwater management strategies

Groundwater quality and quantity are top priorities of the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).  The LENRD board & staff meet each month to develop and implement management plans for the future of our natural resources.

At their July meeting, the board adopted the proposed changes to the LENRD’s Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations, and those changes will become effective on August 24, 2019.

LENRD Assistant Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The changes will further outline the rules and regulations by adding some definitions for terms that relate to current groundwater management strategies to complement the recent adoption of the Lower Platte River Basin Plan and the LENRD’s Integrated Management Plan.”

The board also approved a Streambank Stabilization Project Policy.  Area flooding has caused several streambanks to erode in places where they haven’t in the past.  Due to the extensive river system across the district, the board made the decision to focus resources on public infrastructure.  The policy states that the district will need to partner with one or more public entities on streambank stabilization projects in the future.

The LENRD Board is also waiting to hear if funding has been secured through a grant with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood protection for the city of Battle Creek.

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

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “There are multiple benefits to think about when considering a project of this size.  First and foremost is flood reduction.  Along with that are the recharge benefits as well as recreation.”

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, August 22nd 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.

National Water Quality Initiative provides funds for impaired Bazile Creek Watershed

Agricultural producers located in priority watershed have until July 19 to apply for funds.

Over 80 percent of Nebraskans get their drinking water from groundwater sources. In some parts of the state, that groundwater is threatened with contamination.

To help protect groundwater, special initiative funding is available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative for producers in the Bazile Creek watershed. Funding through this initiative will offer financial assistance to producers to install conservation practices that will improve water quality. Interested applicants need to apply for this funding by July 19, 2019.

The area eligible to apply for funding through the National Water Quality Initiative lies within four Natural Resources Districts – the Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lewis and Clark, and Lower Niobrara NRDs. This eligibility area is also within a critical water quality area known as the Bazile groundwater management area (see map).

Dennis Schueth, general manager of the Upper Elkhorn NRD said, “This gives producers another financial incentive to try some form of conservation practice they have never tried before.  Hopefully, this would be an educational tool for those producers that helps their financial bottom line while enhancing the environment as it relates to water quality and quantity.”

Listed as an impaired water body, the Bazile Creek watershed has seen an increase in sediment and an overabundance of nutrients in both surface and groundwater. Nitrate levels in the groundwater have risen above the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking level standard.  Nitrate levels above this standard pose a human health risk and have created a challenge for communities in the Bazile groundwater management area to provide safe drinking water to residents. The National Water Quality Initiative will work with producers in the area to implement conservation practices to reduce groundwater contamination and control runoff. 

Jim Mathine, district conservationist at the NRCS field office in Spencer encourages landowners within the watershed to contact their local NRCS office to take advantage of this opportunity.

Mathine said, “This Initiative will allow producers to receive funding and technical assistance to apply conservation practices that enhance water quality while lowering input costs and increasing land productivity. Working with producers to increase water quality in the Bazile Creek watershed will benefit every resident in the area through safer drinking water, more productive cropland, and improved wildlife habitat.”

According to Mathine, numerous conservation practices like cover crops, filter strips, nutrient management, no-till and other erosion control practices that improve water quality qualify for funding. These conservation practices not only protect water quality, they can also improve soil health and cropland productivity.

map.Bazile.2019.jpg

Producers are urged to contact their local NRCS office for technical assistance. Sign-up for National Water Quality Initiative funding ends July 19, 2019. For more information, visit www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.

Request for Qualification for the Battle Creek Flood Risk Reduction Project

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is seeking qualifications from qualified engineers to apply for the FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding through the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). If awarded either FEMA grant funds, or other funds, the selected firm would perform professional services to develop preliminary plan, permit, design and construction of the Flood Risk Reduction Structure in the Battle Creek Watershed.

Project Objective
The purpose of the Battle Creek Flood Risk Reduction project is to reduce flooding in the Battle Creek Watershed which includes the City of Battle Creek. The proposed flood risk reduction project is needed to reduce property damages resulting from frequent overtopping and flooding of Battle Creek thus causing damages in the City of Battle Creek and agriculture property.

Submittal Requirements & Scope of Work

Deadline:

One hard copy and an electronic copy of your qualifications/proposals must be provided to: Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1508 Square Turn Boulevard - Norfolk, NE 68701   by the end of business day on July 19th, 2019.

Questions regarding the RFQ can be addressed to LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, (phone: 402-371-7313; e-mail: msousek@lenrd.org ).

Plans in motion to protect West Point and Battle Creek from flooding

As the area continues to recover from the March flood events, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors is looking into possible solutions for communities for the future.  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 West Point has an interlocal agreement with the LENRD to move forward with a preliminary study and design of a flood control levee.

LENRD Projects Manager, Curt Becker, said, “We’ve been working with the City of West Point in the development of this flood-control project for the last few years.  We are to the next step.  The levee will allow for optimal flood reduction in times of torrential rainfall.”

The LENRD Board voted to approve 50% of the costs of the West Point Levee Improvement Project design and permitting up to $494,760.00.  The district’s share would be $247,380.00.  This is part of the $1.7 million project that was approved by the LENRD in July of 2017.

The City of Battle Creek approached the LENRD board this spring, asking if the potential flood-control projects that were deemed feasible in 2014 could be revisited.  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.  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.

The LENRD Board voted to move ahead with the process of securing funding for a flood-control project at their May meeting, and to file a letter of intent with FEMA/NEMA for flood protection for Battle Creek.  The board also voted to direct staff to contract with consulting firms to prepare all the necessary documentation and complete 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 flood reduction.  Along with that comes the benefits of recharge and retiming as well as recreation.”  Sousek continued, “This is just the first of many steps in this process.”

The Village of Snyder is seeking a location for a new Public Water Supply Well.  The LENRD has a program that provides $5,000 in financial assistance for the construction and development of a test-well that is used to determine the pumping capacity of a proposed well, along with an evaluation of water quality.  The information from the test well is then utilized in the design and location of the production well.  As a condition of granting the financial assistance, the Village of Snyder will grant the LENRD access to the test-well for future groundwater monitoring purposes.  The board voted to direct staff to make payment to the Village of Snyder upon receipt of the documentation of the completion of the test-well.

In other action, the board directed staff to send non-compliance notification letters containing a July 22, 2019 deadline, to farm operators in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 Management Areas who have not submitted annual reports the district.  Notices to irrigators who have not submitted end-of-season flow meter readings from the 2018 pumping season for active irrigation wells will also be sent.

The board also held a Public Hearing to receive 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 is available at the LENRD office in Norfolk and on the district’s website.  The board will review the testimony and approve the changes at their July meeting.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, July 25th 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. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Hazard Mitigation Plan to be updated this year

For every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, $4 in post storm cleanup and rebuilding is saved, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Proactive hazard mitigation planning allows a community to take actions to reduce or eliminate threats from natural disasters. To help guide future hazard mitigation projects, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is updating their current Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Hazard mitigation plans (HMP) are a requirement of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, administered by FEMA, and once a community, county, or district is part of an approved plan they become eligible for up to a 75% cost share for a wide variety of projects listed in the plan. Hazard Mitigation Plans are required to be updated on a five-year cycle and the LENRD’s HMP is required to be updated in 2019.

A hazard mitigation plan is a publicly-guided document that identifies vulnerability to natural disasters such as flood, drought, earthquake, wildfire, winter storm, tornado/high wind storm, dam failure, etc. The plan sets goals, establishes mitigation alternatives, and prioritizes projects which may alleviate potential damages to property and provide protection when future disasters occur.

The planning effort to update the plans across the 15-county district are being guided by a Planning Team consisting of representatives from the LENRD, Counties, the Cities, several schools, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR), and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Public input will be gathered throughout the duration of the plan development through online tools and public meetings. All communities, Counties, Sanitary Improvement Districts, Tribal Nations, and School Districts within the LENRD are eligible to participate.

The LENRD hired JEO Consulting Group, Inc. (JEO) to assist with the plan development this year.  JEO assisted in completing the LENRD’s original and current Hazard Mitigation Plan, in 2009 and 2014.  This hazard mitigation plan update is funded by a FEMA planning grant.  The cost is shared 75% through federal funding and 25% through a local match.  For this plan update, the LENRD provided the 25% local match.

For more information on the Hazard Mitigation Plan, contact LENRD Projects Manager, Curt Becker.

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.

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