Managing your soil moisture bank

After an early start to harvest most farmers found themselves waiting for the rain to quit.  What can a producer do to be productive? How about planning a cover crop planting?  It really is never too late to plant a cover crop!

The plentiful to excess autumn rainfall amounts highlight another benefit that cover crops will provide, which is using excess water.  Why is that important right now you may ask?  As our soil moisture profile fills during this post-harvest time frame it leaves less room in the “soil moisture bank” for storing off-season precipitation.

Managing the soil moisture bank becomes even more important going into the spring when we typically receive heavier rainfall amounts and there is no crop growing to use the moisture.  The risk in this scenario is that when excess rainfall percolates through the root zone and out of the reach of crop roots, it takes crop nutrients with it.  You may have spread fertilizer in the fall as part of your fertility program and not end up getting the value out of it.

Getting the jump on establishing another living root system in the soil before next year’s cash crop is planted is a big benefit as well.   Mycorrhizal fungi depend on living roots exuding plant sugars for their survival.  These fungi are important players in the soil biology, living in and around plant roots and providing water and plant nutrients from the surrounding soil in exchange for the liquid carbon in released plant sugars.

A “mycorrhizal handshake” occurs when the cash crop seed germinates into a soil with the mycorrhizal fungal system already growing in it.  The mycorrhizae colonize the growing seed and protect it from pathogenic fungi in the soil.  The plant recognizes the mycorrhizal fungi as beneficial and begin to funnel carbon in the form of plant sugars to it to encourage their symbiotic relationship.

Another benefit is weed suppression provided by the cover crop early in the season.  We have all heard the saying “The best herbicide is plant canopy”.  Cover crops get an early fall start and take off growing again as soon as soil temps get to a little as 35 degrees in the spring.  Save some money on herbicide…spend it on cover crops.

Anyone who chose to aerially seed or broadcast into standing cropland this fall is likely very pleased with their results as the cool and wet conditions have really favored good growth.  The cover crop will be using some of the excess moisture, helping to dry the soil out and provide a more trafficable field condition for harvesting.  Earlier seeding makes the use of multi-species mixes more effective as the sunlight and growing degrees available decline rapidly in the fall.

What can you plan to do now?  Get your crops harvested and hit the field with a drill as soon as you can.  The later start in the fall can be managed by letting the covers grow a little longer in the spring.  Plant your crops into the living cover crop, a process called “planting green” and let both the cover and cash crop grow at the same time for a period of time.  That period will be determined mostly by soil moisture usage by the two.  This is how you manage your soil moisture bank.

At the end of the day, a field planted to a cover crop planting will always enjoy an added level of protection from sheet and rill erosion and gully erosion.  Look at it as an insurance policy for your land as well as your purchased and applied inputs. 

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District and USDA-NRCS offer some attractive financial incentives for trying cover crops on your farm.  Stop in or call them for more information on one of the latest and greatest beneficial soil conservation practices.

Marty Marx from Wayne aerially applied a multi-species cover crop with a helicopter seeding service August 31. Benefitting from Mother Nature’s plentiful rainfall, the cover crops surface-germinated and are set to provide a wide range of benefits from soil erosion prevention and regenerating his cropland soils to managing his soil moisture bank. The jump start the cover crops get also allow them to sequester unused crop nutrients, provide a mycorrhizal environment for the germinating seeds and early season weed suppression.

Marty Marx from Wayne aerially applied a multi-species cover crop with a helicopter seeding service August 31. Benefitting from Mother Nature’s plentiful rainfall, the cover crops surface-germinated and are set to provide a wide range of benefits from soil erosion prevention and regenerating his cropland soils to managing his soil moisture bank. The jump start the cover crops get also allow them to sequester unused crop nutrients, provide a mycorrhizal environment for the germinating seeds and early season weed suppression.

Groundwater Management Area expands in Pierce and Madison Counties

NORFOLK -- The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) has been monitoring the groundwater throughout the district for over 40 years.  In the early ‘90s, a Groundwater Management Plan was established to protect the resource for future generations.

The LENRD is charged with the responsibility and authority to implement controls as necessary to both protect and remediate groundwater quality.  Concern for groundwater quality and the growing health concerns for the public, as well as the desire to further implement best management practices to prevent groundwater contamination, are the primary reasons the district has expanded the geographic area of the Phase 2 & 3 Groundwater Management Area in Pierce and northern Madison Counties.

Concerns about high nitrates in the district have risen as long-term monitoring has shown increasing levels of nitrate concentration in much of the groundwater in Pierce County, and most recently in small portions of northern Madison County.  Results indicate that of the approximately 40% of the registered wells sampled in Pierce County, the average nitrate-nitrogen level is 11.7 parts per million (ppm).  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum contaminant level of 10 ppm for nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water supplies.

Several health concerns are related to the consumption of high nitrate water.  Nitrates can be particularly harmful to infants under six months of age.  Excessively high nitrates can lead to methemoglobinemia, a condition that is commonly known as “blue baby syndrome” in which there is a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, potentially leading to death.  Pregnant women and other adults with certain health conditions may also be at increased risk.  Preliminary results from another study also indicate a potential positive link between groundwater nitrates and the incidence of birth defects and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Actions taken in the Phase 2 Area by agricultural producers and the LENRD will help to protect and improve groundwater quality. The following are requirements for the Phase 2 Area.  The UPDATED changes are in bold italics:

·         Fall and winter application of commercial nitrogen fertilizer is prohibited between October 15 and March 15

·         Operators who apply commercial nitrogen must be certified by the LENRD

·         Submittal of annual field reports to the LENRD by March 15th of each calendar year

·         Require deep soil sampling (24 inches) in fields planted to continuous corn (Each sample should represent no more than 80 acres)

·         Require irrigation water sampling once every four years

·         Defines nitrogen fertilizer as a chemical compound in which the percentage of nitrogen is greater than the percentage of any other nutrient in the compound and, when applied, results in an average application rate of more than twenty-five (25) pounds of nitrogen per acre over the field to which it is being applied.

·         Any single application of commercial nitrogen fertilizer in excess of 80 pounds per acre is prohibited

·         Require use of LENRD approved nitrogen inhibitor or stabilizer if applying more than 50 pounds of commercial nitrogen in any single application (after March 15) and provide documentation to verify use along with proper application rate

Actions taken in the Phase 3 Area by agricultural producers and the LENRD will help to protect and improve groundwater quality. The following are requirements for the Phase 3 Area.  The UPDATED changes to the existing rules and regulations of a Phase 3 Area are in bold italics:

  • Continue all Phase 2 Area controls

·         Require use of LENRD approved nitrogen inhibitor or stabilizer if applying more than 50 pounds of commercial nitrogen in any single application (after March 15) and provide documentation to verify use along with proper application rate

  • Defines nitrogen fertilizer as a chemical compound in which the percentage of nitrogen is greater than the percentage of any other nutrient in the compound and, when applied, results in an average application rate of more than twenty-five (25) pounds of nitrogen per acre over the field to which it is being applied.

  • Any single application of commercial nitrogen fertilizer in excess of 80 pounds per acre is prohibited

  • Require deep soil sampling (24 inches) in all fields planted to corn (regardless of crop rotation) (Each sample should represent no more than 80 acres)

  • Require the development and adherence to a LENRD approved Nutrient Management Plan

  • Require annual irrigation water sampling

The effective date of the adopted changes is October 15, 2018.

“These changes are the product of several months’ worth of effort between the District staff and our Board of Directors, and while these changes will require some adjustments for area producers, the feedback thus-far has mostly been positive,” said Brian Bruckner, LENRD Assistant General Manager. “The District takes the responsibility for groundwater management seriously, and is equally as committed to working cooperatively with landowners and producers as their actions are key to a long-term solution.”

“The District encourages any citizens with further questions about the Groundwater Management Area to contact the LENRD office or visit our website for more information,” added Bruckner.  “We are seeking reasonable solutions to natural resources issues through increased communication and education.”

Updated Area Map

Lower Elkhorn NRD 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 776 flow meters located within the District by April 15, 2019.

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 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 Antelope and Madison counties serviced (see the map attached). Proposals are for the two counties collectively; bids for each county separately will not be accepted.

The full RFP is attached.  If you have any questions please contact Austyn or Curt at the LENRD office (telephone number (402) 371-7313 or by email at ahouser@lenrd.org or cbecker@lenrd.org).

Proposals must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 12, 2018 to the NRD office.

Request for Proposal - map

LENRD Board adopts voluntary Integrated Management Plan

Being proactive in the conjunctive management of  groundwater and surface water is what led the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors to implement a voluntary Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the protection of the resources.  The citizens of the LENRD depend on abundant water resources for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, all of which contribute to the economy of the district.  Water resources are also important for wildlife habitat and recreational uses such as fishing, hunting, boating, and swimming.

In early 2012, the LENRD board took action to initiate development of a joint voluntary IMP with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR), to provide a needed framework for wise, long-term management of finite water resources.

In 2013, the NDNR and the seven NRDs that make up the Lower Platte River Basin, formed the Lower Platte River Basin Coalition.  The Coalition’s mission is to coordinate efforts to protect the long-term balance of the Basin’s water uses and water supplies.  A primary action of the Coalition was to voluntarily develop a Lower Platte Basin Water Management Plan, which was adopted by all parties as of January 10, 2018.

The LENRD continued to move forward with their individual plan, and developed a Stakeholder Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from: Agriculture, Industry, Public Water Supply, Domestic well owners, Environmental, as well as County and City officials. This Committee met in 2014 and 2015 to help prioritize goals and action items of the IMP.  The district continued to work with the NDNR to develop a working draft over the next several years.

The NDNR and the LENRD jointly held a public meeting to discuss and answer public questions on the IMP on August 9, 2018.  A public hearing was then held on August 23, 2018, where public testimony on the final version of the plan was recorded.  After reviewing the testimony, the LENRD board voted to approve the IMP at their September 27th board meeting.

LENRD Assistant Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The purpose of this voluntary IMP is to achieve and sustain a long-term balance between water uses and water supplies.  Protection of existing users is also a major factor since there is still available water in the Basin, and the District is continuing to add new users on an annual basis. This will be achieved through coordinated management of hydrologically connected groundwater and surface water resources.  The voluntary IMP is considered a proactive approach to protecting available water supplies to better ensure that the resource will be available for future generations and also makes the District eligible to apply for grant funding through the NDNR Water Sustainability Fund.”

In other action, the board authorized LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, to sign the contract with JEO Consulting Group to update the District’s Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The board also authorized the signing of an interlocal agreement for obtaining seedling trees and shrubs with the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts for the LENRD’s Conservation Tree Program.

In other business, staff was authorized to solicit bids for flow meter maintenance on mechanical meters in Madison and Antelope Counties for 776 meters and will sign a contract with the lowest responsible bidder.

The next committee meeting will be held on Thursday, October 11th at 7:00 p.m..  The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 25th at 7:30 p.m. at the LENRD office in Norfolk.

Sign-up begins Sept. 4th for new irrigated acres

Farmers within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, will have an opportunity to apply for new irrigated acres for 2019.

The LENRD board voted, at their August meeting, to allow up to 2,500 acres of new groundwater 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 for 2019.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The board voted to allow for the approval of standard variances district-wide, from areas that fall within the top five Potential for Development categories as provided on the Classification 4 Map provided by Flatwater Group.”

Bruckner added, “The board suggested an annual limit on the amount of groundwater withdrawal from wells associated with approved variances, determined by board policy, which is subject to future modification if conditions warrant.  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.  The district will receive applications for standard variances between September 4th, 2018 and October 3rd, 2018.  Contact the LENRD for more information.

Map

Application Form (available Sept. 4th)

LENRD approves a lower tax levy for fiscal year 2019

The 2019 fiscal year budget for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) once again calls for a lower tax levy.

The operating budget was approved by the board of directors at their August 23rd meeting with a tax request of $4,272,728.  The budget of all expenditures shows a 6.39% decrease of $451,300 from last year.

The estimated levy, based on the property tax request, is 2.314 cents per $100 of valuation, which is a slight decrease from the fiscal year 2018 levy of 2.327 cents per $100 of valuation.  For example, if a person owns a $100,000 house, the taxes owed to the LENRD would have been $23.27 in 2018, and will be approximately $23.14 in 2019.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “It’s becoming more difficult to continue decreasing the tax levy year after year.  This is the 7th year in a row for a decrease in property tax asking.  Last year, we reached a historic low with the lowest tax levy in 45 years.  Even with the 0% 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 head on.”

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 these 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.  A copy of the budget documents can be found at:

Public hearing on Integrated Management Plan is August 23rd

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) hereby provide notice that the LENRD and the NeDNR shall hold a public hearing on August 23, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the LENRD office, located at 1508 Square Turn Blvd. in Norfolk, Nebraska.  The purpose of the hearing is to take testimony on the proposed LENRD/NeDNR Integrated Management Plan (IMP) and the proposed controls. The geographic area for the proposed IMP encompasses the entire land area within the LENRD boundary. The geographic area of proposed groundwater controls is where groundwater and surface water are hydrologically connected within the LENRD boundary. The geographic area of proposed surface water controls is the extent of the Lower Elkhorn River Basin that is within the District boundary.

Chapter 7 of the voluntary IMP outlines the two controls for groundwater management and two controls for surface water management that are consistent to meet the goals and objectives of the IMP. These controls are 1) Limits on the development of new groundwater and surface water irrigated acres, and 2) Required measuring devices on certain wells and surface water diversions. The groundwater controls apply to a geographic sub-area of District; a map of which can be accessed in Chapter 5.   The surface water controls apply to the Elkhorn River Basin portion of the District, a map of which can also be accessed in Chapter 5. 

Any interested person may appear at the hearing and present written or oral testimony concerning the proposed IMP and proposed controls.  Individuals with disabilities may request auxiliary aids and service necessary for participation by contacting the LENRD or the NeDNR by August 15, 2018.  Testimony or other evidence relevant to the purposes of the hearing may also be submitted in writing to Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1508 Square Turn Boulevard, Norfolk, Nebraska, 68701, or the Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 64676, Lincoln NE 68509-4676, or by electronic mail at dnr.legalfile@nebraska.gov by 5:00pm, August 21, 2018. 

Following the public hearing the LENRD and the NeDNR will make a joint decision within 60 days of whether to implement the proposed IMP with or without modifications and whether to adopt and implement the controls as proposed in the IMP.

Public Notice

Integrated Management Plan

Soil Health Demo Farm - Field Day to be held August 23rd

The Loren Pestel Farm at 57161  834 Rd, Stanton, NE will be the site for the Soil Health Field Day on Thursday, August 23rd from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon.  The morning sessions will educate producers on soil health, cover crops, grazing cover crops, and more!  RSVP to your local NRCS office.  Click on the event flyer for more details:

Event Flyer

Public information meeting for the Integrated Management Plan is Aug. 9

A public meeting will be held on Thursday, August 9th to inform the public about the background, development process, implementation, and what having a Voluntary Integrated Management Plan (IMP) means for water quantity management in the LENRD.  The IMP has been jointly developed for the LENRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.  The public meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the LENRD board room at their new location, 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.

Meeting Agenda

Notice of Public Meeting

Integrated Management Plan - Draft

Open House Public Hearing to be held July 26th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold an Open House Public Hearing on Thursday, July 26th from 5-7 p.m. at their new office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.  The purpose of the hearing is to receive public comment on proposed amendments to the district's Groundwater Management Area Rules & Regulations.

The LENRD has been monitoring the groundwater across their 15 counties for over 40 years.  In the early ‘90s, a Groundwater Management Plan was established to protect the resource for future generations.  As the monitoring continued, elevated levels of nitrates were detected in portions of Pierce County.  The initial Groundwater Management Plan contained language that informed both the Board of Directors and the general public, of the triggers and potential controls that could be imposed within a Groundwater Management Area, using a phased approach to managing the resource.  Years have passed, and the nitrate levels in some areas are not declining, and additional portions of the District are experiencing elevated groundwater nitrates, including northern Madison County, even with Best Management Practices in place.  High nitrates in our drinking water can have negative health impacts, and some communities within the area have been required to invest significant financial resources to upgrade their infrastructure in order to deliver a safe, reliable source of drinking water.  Therefore, the LENRD is proposing changes to the Groundwater Management Area in an effort to keep the nitrate levels from increasing.

Public Notice

Phase Area Controls - proposed changes in red

Map - proposed Phase Areas

Rules & Regulations - Proposed changes

Board of Directors has a vacant seat

Due to a vacancy on the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors, the Board is now taking applications to fill the remainder of a four year term (2017-2020) for Subdistrict 1. Applicants must be registered voters and reside within the boundary of the subdistrict shown below.  A more detailed map is available at the LENRD office.

Interested persons should contact the LENRD, 1508 Square Turn Blvd, Norfolk NE 68701, 402-371-7313 or email: msousek@lenrd.org

A resume’ should be submitted to the LENRD by July 19, 2018.  

  • A sample resume’ form is available at the LENRD office.
  • Candidates will be invited to address the Board of Directors at the July 26, 2018 board meeting to be held at the LENRD office in Norfolk.  A letter of invitation will be sent to all candidates.

Subdistrict 1 - MAP

High Nitrates in drinking water are harmful: Phased Groundwater Management Plan designed to address high nitrate levels

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District’s (LENRD) dual concern for groundwater quality and the health of the public; along with the responsibility to enact controls and further implement best management practices to mitigate and prevent groundwater contamination, are the primary reasons the district is considering a modification of the geographic area of the Groundwater Quality Management Area in Pierce and Madison counties.

An Open House Public Hearing will be held on Thursday, July 26th to provide information and to receive feedback on the proposed changes to the Groundwater Management Area along with the controls that could be implemented to protect the groundwater in that area.

Concerns about high nitrates in the district have risen as recent monitoring has shown increasing levels of nitrate concentration in much of the groundwater in Pierce County, when compared with long-term monitoring data from the same area.  Comprehensive sampling of Pierce and Madison County irrigation wells was conducted in both 2015 and 2017, with over 700 samples collected.  The average nitrate concentration of the samples collected was 13 ppm.

Some communities in Pierce County have also been plagued with high nitrates in their drinking water and have had to invest in new infrastructure or other remedial measures to supply safe, reliable drinking water to their residents.

Several health concerns are related to the consumption of high nitrate water.  Nitrates can be particularly harmful to infants under six months of age.  Excessively high nitrates can lead to methemoglobinemia, a condition that is commonly known as “blue baby syndrome” in which there is a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, leading to death.  Pregnant women and other adults with certain health conditions may also be at increased risk.  Because of these potential health risks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per million (ppm) for nitrate-nitrogen in public water supplies.

The LENRD’s Groundwater Management Area has a system of four phase levels. The designated boundaries for the phases may follow either natural or political boundaries. The boundaries may be drawn around existing problem areas or potentially vulnerable areas.

"The use of several phases allows the district to adapt different requirements to assorted conditions," said Brian Bruckner, LENRD Assistant General Manager.  He added, “The requirements for an area may change, and are tailored to fit the conditions that exist within a designated phase area."

Nitrates in drinking water are harmful

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) has been monitoring the groundwater across their 15 counties for over 40 years.  In the early ‘90s, a Groundwater Management Plan was established to protect the resource for future generations.  As the monitoring continued, elevated levels of nitrates were detected in portions of Pierce County.  The initial Groundwater Management Plan contained language that informed both the Board of Directors and the general public, of the triggers and potential controls that could be imposed within a Groundwater Management Area, using a phased approach to managing the resource.  Years have passed, and the nitrate levels in some areas are not declining, and additional portions of the District are experiencing elevated groundwater nitrates, including northern Madison County, even with Best Management Practices in place.  High nitrates in our drinking water can have negative health impacts, and some communities within the area have been required to invest significant financial resources to upgrade their infrastructure in order to deliver a safe, reliable source of drinking water.  Therefore, the LENRD is proposing changes to the Groundwater Management Area in an effort to keep the nitrate levels from increasing.  The proposed changes will be addressed in an Open House Public Hearing at the LENRD office, 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk, on Thursday, July 26th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Coalition focuses on protecting Nebraska water users

NRDs & NeDNR Coalition Adopts Basin Plan to Protect Water Supplies

The Lower Platte River Basin Coalition, which includes all seven Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in the Loup, Elkhorn, and Lower Platte River Basins, and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) has, after several years of work, adopted and now initiated implementation of a voluntary basin-wide water management plan that sets criteria for managing new water development in the Lower Platte River (basin). The jointly-developed plan implements goals and objectives that work to protect the existing domestic, agricultural, and industrial water uses in the Basin.  The Coalition partners worked to use the best available science to evaluate the balance of supply and demands in the Basin that begins in Nebraska’s water-rich sandhills and ends at the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers, covering more than 25,000 square miles, or nearly one-third of Nebraska.

This unique Basin provides water for irrigation that sustains the area’s agricultural economy, drinking water for more than half of Nebraska’s residents, as well as other important industrial and instream water demands.

“This proactive partnership worked to voluntarily develop a plan for the future conjunctive management of the groundwater and surface water systems in this important river basin,” Russell Callan, General Manager, Lower Loup NRD, said.  “Nebraska’s locally-driven groundwater management system, through NRDs, is a unique and strong approach for our state. This comprehensive basin-wide plan is another example of local and state jurisdictional entities working in partnership to protect all of Nebraska’s water users, protecting lives, Nebraskans’ property and our economic future, Callan said

For more than 45 years, locally-elected NRD boards have successfully worked to address local groundwater quantity and quality management challenges. Water managers have recognized that what occurs in the sandhills of the upper portions of the Loup and Elkhorn Basins impacts the Lower Platte River Basin near Lincoln and Omaha’s water supplies in the lower portion of the Basin. Likewise, changes in a variety of water demands in the lower part of the Basin can impact the upper portion of the Basin. This Basin planning effort improves the collaboration between groundwater and surface water jurisdictions and managers across the whole Basin and establishes a framework for continually assessing impacts and identifying opportunities for more efficient uses of Nebraska’s water. The plan also encourages local NRD and stakeholders to work together with the state to consistently gather and share data, apply technical analyses that will be used for long-term monitoring, and establish benchmarks to maintain water sustainability across the entire Basin.

“The fact that seven locally elected boards with varying local priorities were able to voluntarily sit down with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and develop a plan that works to protect all water uses now and for the future, as a foundation to grow our economy, while also ensuring our most precious natural resource is protected, is a valuable outcome for all water users in the state,” said Jeff Fassett, Director of NeDNR.

Results from the water balance study that was developed by the Coalition indicated that, on an average annual basis, supply in the Basin exceeds the existing demands. Recognizing the opportunity this presents, but also wanting to be always aware of periodic droughts and protective of the long-term sustainability of the Basin’s water supply, the Coalition partners developed a measured, incremental approach to allowing additional new uses. The adopted plan developed targets for allowable development at no more than 10% of the current identifiable long-term average excess waters during the first five-year increment of the plan. It is up to each local NRD board, along with NeDNR, to determine if and how they want to allow for the development of any new groundwater and surface water uses. The plan also lays out a process for annual collection and reporting of important data that will be used to monitor the plan’s implementation. Each member will report to the Coalition annually on any new water uses and their associated streamflow depletions or projects developed to mitigate streamflow depletions.

“While this first increment uses the best science available today, an incremental approach ensures we will continue to use the best available science,” Mike Sousek, General Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, said. “We want Nebraskans to benefit from the available excess water, but we also want to avoid a situation where we exceed the available secure and reliable water supplies. This careful, incremental approach and annual reporting will allow us to continually assess changes, adapt, and adjust as needed to ensure existing users are protected,” Sousek said.

While the long-term historic Basin streamflows highlight the overall positive balance in the Basin, unfortunately, much of the identified usable supplies occurs during the non-peak water use season, or fall and winter months, when demands for the excess water are much less. But to water managers in the Basin, this average excess supply represents an opportunity for implementing more effective management strategies going forward.

“This plan is a proactive approach to address sound water management, which is the number one priority in the world,” said John Winkler, General Manager, Papio-Missouri River NRD.  “By capturing and storing some of the water during the non-peak period, those flows can be retimed for delivery during the peak demand periods, not only helping to meet demands during times of drought or when dry conditions warrant, but also mitigating flood potential during extreme excess flow events,” Winkler said.

Other efforts by the Lower Platte South, Lower Platte North, and Papio-Missouri River NRDs, in partnership with the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), the Lincoln Water System, and NeDNR are looking at opportunities to further address drought periods and when peak demands overlap periods when streamflows are at their lowest.

“The Basin-Wide Plan is really a step forward for everyone in the Basin,” Paul Zillig, General Manager, Lower Platte South NRD, said.  “In conjunction with our own drought mitigation planning, the plan allows for potential upstream development, while protecting existing and future municipal, industrial, and instream water demands downstream.”

###

The Lower Platte River Basin Water Management Plan Coalition is a collaborative working arrangement of the seven-member NRDs (Upper Loup, Lower Loup, Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Platte North, Lower Platte South, Papio-Missiouri River) and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, created to adopt, implement and maintain the Basin-wide Water Management Plan.  The Coalition, now entered into their second interlocal cooperative agreement, focuses on water use policies and practices that contribute to the protection of existing surface water and groundwater uses while allowing for future water development. The Coalition provides the flexibility for NRDs to work cooperatively and with NeDNR in ways they would not be able to individually.  To learn more about the Coalition, visit https://lprbc.nebraska.gov 

Watershed projects bring Nebraska estimated benefits of $80 million per year

Support Soil and Water Stewardship Week - April 29-May 5 – Share Pictures of What Water Means to You

In honor of Soil and Water Stewardship Week’s theme “Watersheds, Our Water, Our Home,” the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are celebrating the watershed projects that benefit Nebraska. Through the 900+ watershed projects the NRDs and NRCS have developed together, over $80 million in average annual damages from flooding and erosion are prevented every year.

These economic numbers are based off the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act benefits for each watershed project NRCS and the NRDs have worked on together since 1954 and indexed up to 2018 dollar values. Before these watershed projects were built, an economic analysis was conducted. These projects were required to reach a cost/benefit ratio threshold high enough to receive funding. This careful planning has resulted in a tremendous return on investment over the past 60 years.

The watershed dams constructed through the Federal Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program are working to protect Nebraskans from flood damage. Watershed Program project results include watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion and sediment control, water supply, improved water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, wetland creation and restoration, and public recreation.

“This partnership between the public, NRCS, NRDs, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality has been vital in Nebraska’s long-term success,” said Dean Edson, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts executive director. “We all work with landowners every day. Without these projects and their willingness to improve their land and prevent potential flooding, Nebraskans could potentially be dealing with flood damage costs on their properties and in their homes every year.”

NRCS and the NRDs work with landowners to install flood control measures like small dams, grade stabilization structures and apply conservation practices such as reduced tillage, terraces and waterways.  These flood prevention and conservation practices work together throughout the watershed to catch and slow runoff from heavy rains preventing damage to infrastructure, homes, cropland and roads. 

Craig Derickson, state conservationist with NRCS said, “The Watershed Program in Nebraska has been a perfect partnership between Federal and State agencies working together to protect natural resources. This year’s watershed theme for Soil and Water Stewardship Week provided a great opportunity to remind Nebraskans of the benefits these watershed structures provide.”

Soil and Water Stewardship Week is April 29th – May 5th, and the NRDs and NRCS are calling on YOU to show us what water means to you! Snap selfies and fun pictures of how you value the water you use. Tweet us @NebraskaNRCS and @NebraskaNRDs. “Like” us on Facebook at Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts and the Lower Elkhorn NRD.

During Soil and Water Conservation Week, the NRDs and NRCS encourage all Nebraskans to spend time outside appreciating our natural resources and especially our “Watersheds, Our Water, Our Home.”

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A public hearing to certify irrigated acres will be held April 26th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold a public hearing to certify irrigated acres on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 7:30 pm.  The hearing will be held in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  The attached list of individuals are those who have fields in this certification hearing.  If you have any questions about this hearing or the certification process, contact Mike Murphy at the LENRD office, 402-371-7313.

Acres to be Certified

Public Hearing Policy

Contested Hearing Form

Cover Crop Management workshops to be held in Pierce and West Point

Are you interested in learning more about Cover Crop Management?  There are two educational workshops coming up in Pierce and West Point, sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).

The workshop in Pierce will be held at the Lied Public Library, 207 W. Court Street, on Tuesday, February 27th from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  The workshop in West Point will be held at the Cuming County Courthouse, 200 S. Lincoln Street, on Wednesday, February 28th from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

The workshops will begin with coffee and rolls at 9:00 a.m., followed by presentations on soil biology, cover crop management, and much more.  Aaron Hird, NRCS State Soil Health Specialist, will visit about why the biology of our soil is so important.  Dan Gillespie, NRCS No-till Specialist, will discuss cover crop management in corn/soybean rotations, what to seed, when to terminate, and what herbicides to use.  Pam Polenske, Stanton County NRCS, will present information on Client Gateway and how to access your NRCS documents online.

Reserve your seat by calling your local NRCS office or the LENRD in Norfolk.

Workshop Agendas

A public hearing to certify irrigated acres will be held February 22nd

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold a public hearing to certify irrigated acres on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.  The hearing will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College - 601 East Benjamin Avenue in Norfolk.  The attached list of individuals are those who have fields in this certification hearing.  If you have any questions about this hearing or the certification process, contact Mike Murphy at the LENRD office, 402-371-7313.

Acres to be Certified

Public Hearing Policy

Contested Hearing Form

LENRD Board to release the approved applications for new irrigated acres

Landowners within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, had an opportunity to apply for new irrigated acres for 2018.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “After much debate last fall, the board voted to take applications for standard variances district-wide.  Applications for nearly 24,000 new irrigated acres were received during the sign-up period, which was open between November 15th and December 15, 2017.”

The board voted at their January meeting to approve up to 2,390 new acres in the Hydrologically Connected or 10/50 Area, and to approve up to 2,530 new acres in the Non-Hydrologically Connected or Non 10/50 Area under the district’s standard variance process.

Bruckner continued, “Staff will now go through the process of contacting the landowners with both approved and non-approved acres.”  After the landowners have been properly notified, the approved list will be available to the public, sometime in February.

In other business, the Board approved an amendment to the LENRD Rules and Regulations for the Management of Groundwater, which will add a new Rule 18 – Transfers of Water Uses.  The addition of this rule will allow the district to consider requests for the transfer of certified acres within the district.  Bruckner said, “Numerous factors will be weighed when evaluating each request, but it will provide both landowners and the district with an additional tool for the management of water resources in the district.”

The board also brought discussion of the Drought Management Plan to a vote at their January meeting and approved adoption of the Drought Management Plan into the LENRD’s Groundwater Management Plan.  Approval of this Plan will merely provide the district with a mechanism to define and categorize drought conditions within the district, and outlines some general response mechanisms that could be utilized in response to each designation.  At the suggestion of the board, the Plan will also integrate real time monitoring well data and a November 1st date for the establishment of any subsequent groundwater controls (for irrigation purposes for the following growing season) as components of the plan.  Most importantly, future effort will be required to develop implementation mechanisms that could be employed by the district to effectively protect groundwater supplies for all groundwater users, during a prolonged period of drought.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “This is a working document that will be utilized, if and when a drought situation occurs.  It gives the district a place to start.”

In other action, the board approved the amended Recreation Area Rules and Regulations.  One of the amendments kept the current policy in place which does not allow alcohol at the Recreation Areas owned by the LENRD, which includes Maskenthine Lake, near Stanton; Maple Creek Recreation Area, near Leigh; and the Willow Creek State Recreation Area, near Pierce.

The district is inviting the public to attend the Bazile Groundwater Management Area Winter Open House & Informational Meeting at the Osmond City Auditorium on Wednesday, February 7th.  The Open House is from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Various topics of the day will include the role of the NRDs, health and drinking water, best management practices, as well as soil fertility and cover crop programs.  Contact the LENRD for more information.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, February 22nd at 7:30 p.m. in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.