USDA ready to help Nebraska farmers and ranchers recover from recent blizzards, floods

LINCOLN, Neb. March 20, 2019 – Extreme weather conditions like the recent “bomb cyclone” and the ongoing flooding impacted many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has disaster assistance programs available to help agricultural producers recover from these natural disasters.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) offer programs that help producers recover losses, rehabilitating farms and ranches, and managing risk.  

 Recovering Losses

FSA offers many programs to help producers recover from losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish ProgramEmergency Forest Restoration Program and the Tree Assistance Program. Producers located in counties receiving a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses.

“FSA has a variety of disaster assistance programs to support farmers and ranchers through times of adversity,” said Nancy Johner, State Executive Director for the FSA in Nebraska. “Once you are able to evaluate your losses, it is important to contact your local FSA office to report all damages and learn more about how we can assist.”

Rehabilitating Farms and Ranches

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other conservation programs to help producers recover and build resilience to better withstand future disasters. NRCS plans to direct additional EQIP funds to cope with livestock lost due to flooding in Nebraska. These dollars will help landowners remove and properly dispose of livestock carcasses that are obstructing streams and waterways.

“NRCS can be a very valuable partner to help landowners with their recovery effort,” said Craig Derickson, State Conservationist for the NRCS in Nebraska. “Our staff will work one-on-one with landowners to make assessments of the damages and develop approaches that focus on effective recovery of the land.”

Meanwhile, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.

Managing Risk

Producers with coverage through federal crop insurance should contact their agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses.  

RMA Regional Director Collin Olsen said, “If you are concerned that you may not be able to get your crop planted, you should contact your crop insurance agent. The agent can provide details on your prevented planting coverage and how and when to file a claim. The Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well-trained in handling these types of events.”

 

Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through FSA’s  Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2019 crops.

Supporting Communities

In addition to helping producers, USDA also offers assistance to local governments and other entities with rebuilding infrastructure and removing debris. The NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program provides assistance to local sponsors with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards like debris removal and streambank stabilization. Interested entities should contact Allen Gehring, NRCS State Conservation Engineer at (402) 437-4037.

More Information

USDA offers a disaster assistance discovery tool that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of what USDA disaster assistance programs meet their needs. For more information on disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA service center or farmers.gov/recover.

 

DHHS to provide free water testing March 21-24 for private well owners impacted by flood

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to open a mobile lab in three Nebraska communities that will offer free water testing for private well owners.

Recent flood conditions can pose threats to the quality of private water supplies. Flooded private water wells or wells suspected of being impacted by flooding may need to be tested to ensure that they are safe. Cloudiness or a change in taste or smell are signs of possible contamination. However, if there is any indication that the water supply has been breached by flood waters, even without noticeable changes in taste or smell, residents are encouraged to test their well water.

The mobile lab will be available in:

Fremont – March 21 and 22

March 21 – 2:30-6:30 p.m.

March 22 – 7:30-11:30 a.m.

Location – 2400 North Lincoln St.

Norfolk – March 22 and 23

March 22 - 2:30-6:30 p.m.

March 23 - 7:30-11:30 a.m.

Location – 302 West Phillip Ave.

Verdigre – March 23 and 24

March 23 – 2:30-6:30 p.m.

March 24 – 7:30-11:30 a.m.

Location – 301 South Main St.

Here’s how it works:

·         Pick up a free testing kit at either the mobile lab location during the hours specified or from one of the local health departments below ahead of time

·         Get a water sample from the private well.

·         Bring sample back to mobile lab for testing.

Local health department locations:

·         Three Rivers Public Health Department, 2400 North Lincoln St., Fremont

·         Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department, 2104 21st Circle, Wisner

·         North Central District Health Department, 422 East Douglas St., O’Neill

Nebraskans can also request kits from the Nebraska Public Health Environmental Laboratory to test for coliform bacteria. Order kits online at http://www.nebraska.gov/dhhs/water-test-kits/private.html or by calling (402) 471-3935 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday.

Water safety is a concern as the flood waters recede

As the flood waters recede and we are able to get back onto our farms and acreages, it is important to think about drinking water safety. Below are two fact sheets that may help to answer your questions. If you need further information, contact your local county Extension office or local NRD office.

Is your private well water safe to drink after a flood?

How to test for Bacteria in a private well

Free Water Testing - mobile lab - March 21st - 24th

Willow Creek Dam 'did what it was designed to do' during historic flood event

PIERCE -- The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) continues to monitor the infrastructure across the area following the historic flooding events of the past week.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “Without the investments that previous community leaders put into place years ago, this historic event could have been much worse.  Without the Willow Creek dam 1 ½ miles southwest of Pierce, and the Flood Control Levee protecting Norfolk, these cities would have been under water.”

On average, the Willow Creek reservoir holds back 7,100 acre-feet of water.  As of Friday, March 15th, with the historic flooding occurring across the area, Willow Creek was holding back over 18,000 acre-feet of water.

An acre-foot is a unit of volume commonly used to reference large-scale water resources, such as reservoirs.  It is defined as the volume of water necessary to cover one acre of surface area to a depth of one foot.  An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water.  If you take that number times the 18,000 acre-feet of water that Willow Creek held back during the storm, you get 5.86 billion gallons of water.  Sousek said, “When you attempt to visualize that amount of water, you can begin to fully understand how critical this dam is to the area.”

Sousek added, “The Willow Creek flood-control structure continues to do its job.  It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do.  The dam held back water that would have otherwise affected the communities of Pierce, Hadar, and Norfolk as well as the streams along the Elkhorn River and downstream landowners, county roads, and bridges.”

To understand the way the dam functions, we need to explain some of its inner workings.  In the dam at the Willow Creek State Recreation Area, there are 27 pressure relief wells across the earthen structure.  These 27 wells relieve the pressure that occurs naturally as water pressure pushes the water up, similar to an artesian aquifer or well.  The relief wells relieve the pressure on the dam and prevent the water from pushing through and eroding a channel under or near the dam.  The relief wells drain into a collection pipe which drains into another collection pool and then finally ends its journey as it drains into the “stilling basin” which is located on the east side of the dam.  The stilling basin allows the water to slow down before it is released into the channel.  Along with the relief wells there are piezometers on the dam that the LENRD uses to monitor the changes in the water levels.  The piezometers measure the depth of water and how high the underground pressure is pushing the water up.  The LENRD staff use the relief wells, the piezometers, and other variables to monitor the structure to determine if it’s functioning properly.

Sousek continued, “Not only did the dam help to alleviate further damages to downstream landowners, towns, and villages, but it also helped protect the levee in Norfolk.”

He said, “We continue to monitor our structures and remain confident in their worth.  Investments in flood control levees and dams strengthen and preserve communities.”

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped during this unprecedented storm as well as those who assisted the LENRD staff as they monitored the Willow Creek Dam, especially the members of the Pierce Volunteer Fire Department.

The Willow Creek State Recreation Area is owned by the LENRD and is managed by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.  To learn more, sign up for our monthly emails.

Willow.Flood.2019.jpeg

Willow Creek Dam, near Pierce, is working efficiently during record flooding

The Willow Creek State Recreation Area is located 1 ½ miles southwest of Pierce.  The dam is the flood control structure that creates the 700-acre reservoir.

Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD), General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The dam is structurally sound and is working as it should.  The LENRD is monitoring the dam and there are no structural deficiencies.”

The dam protects downstream landowners from flooding, as far south as Norfolk.  Sousek added, “Even with the severe flooding that the area has seen, the dam is functioning efficiently.”

The Willow Creek State Recreation Area is owned by the LENRD and is managed by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.

To learn more, sign up for our monthly emails.

Maintenance internships available at our Recreation Areas

Do you know someone who is working towards a career in a natural resources related field? Are they looking for a summer internship? Below is the job description and more information on how to apply for the Maintenance position. There will be at least 2 summer internships available with the district from May until August. Contact the LENRD with any questions at 402-371-7313 and ask for Patty.

Job Description

5th grade students attend 25th Elkhorn H2O Daze in Norfolk

Over 500 fifth graders from a four-county area attended the 25th Elkhorn H2O Daze at the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk this week.  The water festival was held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 5th & 6th.  Nine schools participated in the program from Antelope, Madison, Pierce, and Stanton counties.

            "The festival allows the students to get involved in a variety of hands-on activities designed to promote awareness, knowledge and stewardship of our natural resources, especially water," said Julie Wragge, Information & Education Specialist for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).  “Over the past 25 years we have been able to reach approximately 12,000 youth, educating them about the importance of protecting and conserving our natural resources.”

            Each student attends five "aquativities" at the event. Participants build their own edible aquifer, launch water rockets, learn how water helps to make electricity, understand how water affects the body, learn about the importance of trees, and join in many other hands-on activities.

            The schools attending this year were: Battle Creek, Osmond, Sacred Heart - Norfolk, St. Boniface - Elgin, St. Paul - Norfolk, Stanton, Zion - Plainview, Orchard, and the Norfolk Middle School.

            Elkhorn H2O Daze is patterned after the Children's Groundwater Festival, the elementary water festival held each year in Grand Island, NE.  There are now 5 water festivals that involve children from the across the LENRD.

            Elkhorn H2O Daze is sponsored by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD), and Nucor.  Presenters for the festival come from various agencies, including: the LENRD, the University of Nebraska Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Public Power District, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, the Nebraska Water & Environment Association, and Keep Norfolk Beautiful.  Funding for this event was made possible by the LENRD and Nucor.

H2O Daze.Bubbleology.2019.jpeg

Summer internships available at the LENRD

Do you know someone who is working towards a career in a natural resources related field? Are they looking for a summer internship? Below is the job description and more information on how to apply. There will be at least 2 summer internships available with the district from May until August. Contact the LENRD with any questions at 402-371-7313 and ask for Brian.

Job Description

LENRD Board moves forward with flow meter compliance notifications

All active wells which pump greater than 50 gallons per minute, within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, are required to have a flow meter installed.

The board decided at their January 24th meeting to move forward with sending out compliance notifications to the owners of irrigation wells impacted by the meter installation requirement who have yet to install a meter on their well.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “We have been working diligently with well owners in our district to help them understand the installation requirements, and have provided financial assistance to many property owners to incentivize them to install water meters.  Irrigation well owners had a deadline of January 1, 2018, while all other high-capacity well owners had until January 1, 2019 to get their meters installed.”

Sousek said, “We are here to answer your questions and develop a plan.  We know there are cases where excavation may need to occur after the ground thaws, and we are working with those individuals.  If you still need to install your meter, and you haven’t developed an installation timeline and plan with our staff, you will be receiving correspondence that articulates the next steps.”

Those individuals who receive a compliance notification in the mail will have until April 1, 2019 to install their meters, if they wish to irrigate in 2019.  If meters are not installed by April 1, a notice of intent to issue a cease and desist order will follow.  The letter will also provide reference to the consequences that could occur, if a well owner elects to ignore the requirement.

 Sousek continued, “Some individuals may still be asking, why meters?  The board has long supported the use of flow meters as another groundwater management tool by first adopting an installation requirement for any new high capacity well in July of 2007.  After the drought of 2012, it became very evident that we needed to be proactive in the management of our groundwater since numerous in-season shortages were reported across the district, from all types of groundwater users (irrigators, public water supply systems, livestock, and domestic) with a high number of impacts being felt in Madison, Pierce and Wayne Counties during the 2012 irrigation season.  Quantity management sub-areas were delineated within those counties which required the installation of flow meters on irrigation wells.  More recent changes to the District’s Rules and Regulations for Groundwater Management made flow meter installation mandatory on all other high capacity wells effective January 1, 2018 for irrigation wells and January 1, 2019 for other types of high capacity wells located within the District.  With meters installed across the district, we can be better equipped to handle a drought and share the water in a manageable way.  Meters not only protect the farmers, the domestic users, and the cities, but they also protect the resource.”

Sousek said, “The meters protect current water users and allow for the development of new water users.  They provide a fair and equitable measurement that will allow the LENRD to manage groundwater and provide policies that concentrate on sharing our most precious resource among all users.  Should allocations ever be needed, all stakeholders will be treated equally through the meter program.  Meters can also be a very effective learning tool in measuring how much water is needed to grow a crop.”

In other business, eight board members recently took the Oath of Office and settled into their four-year terms.  They are:  Chad Korth, Meadow Grove; Scott Clausen, Norfolk; Scott McHenry, Norfolk; Bob Noonan, Humphrey; Kurt Janke, Wayne; Dennis Schultz, Wisner; Roger Gustafson, Emerson; and Joel Hansen, Wayne.

The board also elected officers for 2019.  Pictured here is the Executive Board: (back row, from left to right): Joel Hansen, Wayne, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Alternate; Dennis Schultz, Wisner, Past-Chairman; Scott McHenry, Norfolk, NARD Delegate; David Kathol, Norfolk, Treasurer. (Front row, from left to right): Matt Steffen, West Point, Secretary; Gary Loftis, Craig, Chairman; and Kurt Janke, Wayne, Vice-Chairman.

The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, February 28th 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 email list on their website.

The board also elected officers for 2019. Pictured here is the Executive Board: (back row, from left to right): Joel Hansen, Wayne, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Alternate; Dennis Schultz, Wisner, Past-Chairman; Scott McHenry, Norfolk, NARD Delegate; David Kathol, Norfolk, Treasurer. (Front row, from left to right): Matt Steffen, West Point, Secretary; Gary Loftis, Craig, Chairman; and Kurt Janke, Wayne, Vice-Chairman.

The board also elected officers for 2019. Pictured here is the Executive Board: (back row, from left to right): Joel Hansen, Wayne, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Alternate; Dennis Schultz, Wisner, Past-Chairman; Scott McHenry, Norfolk, NARD Delegate; David Kathol, Norfolk, Treasurer. (Front row, from left to right): Matt Steffen, West Point, Secretary; Gary Loftis, Craig, Chairman; and Kurt Janke, Wayne, Vice-Chairman.

LENRD worked with local authorities to recover accident victim

UPDATE: The Maskenthine Lake Recreation Area re-opened on January 31st.

STANTON – Due to the accident that took place at the Maskenthine Lake Recreation Area, north of Stanton, on Sunday, January 20th, the area is closed to the public.  The recreation area is owned and operated by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD).

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “Accident victim, Eddie Myrick of Stanton, was recovered from the water at Maskenthine on Thursday, January 24th.  The LENRD would like to thank the Stanton County Sheriff’s Department who brought in the Yankton Dive Team for the search and successful recovery.  We would also like to thank the local volunteers who helped extensively in the search, they would like to remain anonymous.  The thin ice conditions made the recovery process dangerous for all those involved.  We worked as quickly as we could for the family, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

Sousek added, “We are very sorry for the family and want to express our condolences.  We hope they can find the peace that they deserve during this difficult time.”

The recreation area will remain closed until further notice.

Maskenthine Lake is CLOSED until further notice

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says a search began Sunday for a 55-year old man at Maskenthine Lake north of Stanton. Sheriff Unger says the man was last seen riding a motorcycle on the ice at the lake. 

Unger says no trace of the man was found Sunday evening, but authorities did find an opening in the ice that may be related. Dive teams have been called in to assist with the search.

The lake is closed to the public at this time.

Conservation efforts recognized at Awards Banquet

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) board of directors honored outstanding conservationists at their annual awards banquet on Friday, January 11th.  The event was held at the Stables Event Center in Norfolk.

 Outstanding Tree Planter Award

The Outstanding Tree Planter Award is presented to individuals within the district who have shown a strong commitment to the planting and care of trees.  The Rodney Wiese family of Oakland were honored as the recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Tree Planter Award.  Rodney, and his wife, Joan, accepted the award, along with their son, Andrew.

The Wiese family was nominated by LENRD Forester, Pam Bergstrom.  Bergstrom said, “The Wiese family has planted so many varieties of evergreens, hardwood trees, and shrubs it is almost like an arboretum at their acreage.  Varieties of trees or shrubs that they couldn’t get from the Lower Elkhorn NRD came from various nurseries around Nebraska.”

Several years ago, the Wiese family purchased the acreage they now live on between Craig and Oakland, and knew they wanted to put in new trees, specifically to enhance and renovate the old windbreaks that blocked the wind from the north and the west in the winter.  In the past 7 years they have planted over 1,200 trees and shrubs and renovated a 2 ½ acre windbreak system all by hand.

When the family renovated the windbreak, they completed a ½ acre at a time by cutting down the old trees with chainsaws and then saving the wood for their fire pit that they utilize for themselves and for the Scouts of America Troops that visit their acreage.  Bergstrom said, “When I even mentioned bringing in a bulldozer, they cringed, not at the price, but at the damage it would do to the understory trees.  In a world where machinery has made it easy to wipe the slate clean and do a complete demolition with a bulldozer; the Wiese family wanted to save the younger trees and incorporate them into the refurbished windbreak.”

Besides trees, the family also put in solar panels to provide electricity to their home and out buildings. Since putting in the solar panels, the family has noticed a decrease in their monthly electric bill and feel good about producing green energy on their acreage.  They also have a large garden on which they do their own version of no-till.  Bergstrom said, “They are very contentious about wildlife and planted a variety of shrubs in rows and thickets that allow for habitat and food sources throughout the year.”

Bergstrom added, “They are very deserving of this award.  We congratulate the Wiese family as the recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Tree Planter Award!”

 

(Photo – from left to right: Andrew Wiese; LENRD Forester, Pam Bergstrom; Rodney Wiese; and Joan Wiese).

(Photo – from left to right: Andrew Wiese; LENRD Forester, Pam Bergstrom; Rodney Wiese; and Joan Wiese).

Outstanding Partnership Award

The LENRD works with various agencies and partners each year as we strive to improve the quality of life for the citizens across Northeast Nebraska.  The Outstanding Partnership Award recognizes excellence in community outreach efforts that highlight our mission of protecting our natural resources for future generations.

At the banquet, the LENRD recognized the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau for their outstanding partnership, and for their efforts in promoting the LENRD’s projects and programs across the Norfolk Area.

The Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau has been actively pursuing different ways to get people to stop, look, and learn in Northeast Nebraska.  It was about a year ago when Executive Director, Traci Jeffrey, contacted the district about the possibility of partnering to develop a Moon Walk program in our area.  LENRD Board Chairman, Dennis Schultz, said, “We formed a committee with the Bureau and other agencies, and before long we had three Adult Education events scheduled.  The “Stars, Strolls, and S’mores” events were a big hit with over 250 people attending the learning sessions last summer.  The committee has already met with plans for three more events in 2019.”

The Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau has also been a big promoter of our Recreation Areas.  Schultz continued, “When people are looking for things to see and do, the Bureau has always recommended the Willow Creek State Recreation Area near Pierce as well as the Maskenthine Lake Recreation Area near Stanton.  We appreciate their support of our area projects.”

As Norfolk continues to grow, and we look for more recreational opportunities closer to home, the Norfolk Riverfront Project has taken center stage.  The Bureau was very instrumental in gathering support for the project and working with the Lower Elkhorn NRD to secure funding for this endeavor.  Schultz said, “This is an exciting project, not only for Norfolk, but for the citizens across our district, and we are proud to be a partner!”

Executive Director, Traci Jeffrey, and Marketing Coordinator, Stacie Wilken, accepted the award on behalf of the Bureau.  Schultz added, “We want to thank you for your continued partnership and we look forward to working with you well into the future as we strive to improve the quality of life for the residents of our district.  Congratulations!”


(Photo – from left to right: LENRD Board Chairman, Dennis Schultz; Marketing Coordinator, Stacie Wilken; Executive Director, Traci Jeffrey; and LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek).

(Photo – from left to right: LENRD Board Chairman, Dennis Schultz; Marketing Coordinator, Stacie Wilken; Executive Director, Traci Jeffrey; and LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek).

Service Awards:

Jill Barr, of Norfolk, was honored for her years of service to the district.  Barr was on the board of directors since 2016.

Jill Barr

Jill Barr

Chairman Schultz added, “Congratulations to all of our winners tonight.  We thank you for your hard work and continued efforts in protecting our natural resources.”

LENRD is going digital!

You will receive the last printed edition of the Directions newsletter in your mailbox very soon!  The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is discontinuing the printing of their newsletter.  To stay connected with the NRD, subscribe to their monthly emails to receive the latest news, agendas, and deadlines on important topics that affect northeast Nebraskans and our precious natural resources.  Just type your email address into the box to the right of this article. The Lower Elkhorn NRD serves all or parts of 15-counties in northeast Nebraska.  Subscribe today and stay connected with the NRD!

Public hearing relating to the district's Groundwater Management Area will be held December 6th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) will hold a public hearing on December 6, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. at the LENRD office, located at 1508 Square Turn Blvd. in Norfolk. The purpose of the hearing is to take testimony on amendments to Rules (1) and (17) of the District’s Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations as approved by the District on January 24, 2013 and made effective February 25, 2013. No changes or amendments are being proposed at this time to Rules (1) and (17) and this hearing is being conducted to comply with a provision contained within Section 17.9 of the Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations for the Enforcement of the Nebraska Groundwater Management and Protection Act.

The geographic area impacted by this hearing includes all of Battle Creek, Union, and Warnerville Townships in Madison County, all of Cleveland and Clover Valley Townships in Pierce County, all of Brenna, Chapin, Hancock, Plum Creek and Strahan Townships, and Sections (25) through (36) of Hunter, and Sections (25) through (36) of Wilbur Townships in Wayne County, all of which are located within the LENRD boundary.

Any interested person may appear at the hearing and present written or oral testimony relevant to the purpose of the hearing. Testimony or other evidence relevant to the purposes of the hearing may also be submitted in writing to Lower Elkhorn NRD, or by electronic mail at lenrd@lenrd.org by 5:00 pm, December 6, 2018.

Public Notice

Groundwater Management Area - Rules #1 & #17

LENRD Board approves applications for new irrigated acres

Earlier this fall, landowners within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) boundaries, had an opportunity to apply for new irrigated acres for 2019.

LENRD Assistant General Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “The board voted to accept applications for standard variances from selected portions of the District.  We received 145 applications for new irrigated acres during the sign-up period, which was open between September 4th and October 3rd, 2018.”

The board voted at their November meeting to approve up to 2428 acres in the Hydrologically Connected (10/50 Area), and to approve up to 2515 new acres in the Non-Hydrologically Connected (Non 10/50 Area), under the district’s standard variance process.  Recommendations for approval were determined by using the variance scoring process which has been utilized by the District on previous occasions.  Eligible applications are scored and ranked from highest to lowest, and approvals made until the available acres have been allocated.

Bruckner continued, “District staff will be generating letters to all applicants to inform them on the status of their request (whether they were approved or denied), with those letters being generated and mailed next week .”  After the landowners have been properly notified, the list of applicants who were approved may be made available by submitting a public records request.

In other action, the board approved the allocations for the designated Quantity Management Subareas across the district for 2019.  Bruckner, said, “Each year, the board must determine the annual groundwater allocation amounts for the Wayne and Madison County Quantity Management Subareas for the upcoming crop year.”  The board voted to set the 2019 allocation amounts at:  18 acre-inches per irrigated acre for gravity/flood irrigation systems, 13 acre-inches per irrigated acre for subsurface drip irrigation systems, and 14 acre-inches per irrigated acre for all other irrigation systems in the Eastern Madison County Quantity Subarea, and 17 acre-inches per irrigated acre for gravity/flood irrigation systems, 12 acre-inches per irrigated acre for subsurface drip irrigation systems, and 13 acre-inches per irrigated acre for all other irrigation systems in the Wayne County Quantity Subarea.

In other business, the board approved 9 Community Forestry Incentive applications for a total cost of $32,867.95.  The communities receiving grants this year include:  Madison, Norfolk, Pender, Pierce Public Schools, Pilger, Wakefield, West Point, West Point Public Schools, and Wisner.

The board also voted to schedule a public hearing to be conducted on December 6, 2018 at 7 p.m. to receive comments and testimony from the public on Rules 1 and 17 of the District’s Groundwater Management Area Rules and Regulations.  The public hearing will be at the LENRD office at 1508 Square Turn Boulevard in Norfolk.

Job opening for an educator to assist with nitrate issues in northeast Nebraska

UNL Extension is looking for an Extension Educator to provide regional leadership in the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (Knox, Pierce, and Antelope Counties), and develop focused, comprehensive educational programs that utilize available agricultural technologies to improve irrigation and nitrogen management for corn-soybean rotation cropping systems that halt the rising trend of nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in groundwater.

Do you have the drive to help us with critical water and nitrogen management issues facing crop producers? Can you be a strong regional expert and develop focused, comprehensive learning opportunities on topics such as rainfed and irrigated crop production systems to reduce nitrate contamination of groundwater, use of cover crops, and crop residues to build resiliency and protect soil and water resources?

This is a permanent, full-time, UNL faculty position and will be located in Norfolk at the Lower Elkhorn NRD office. This individual will work in collaboration with four Natural Resources Districts, State and Federal Agencies, and Agribusiness professionals to develop and deliver educational programs for rainfed and irrigated cropping systems programs. The goal is to halt the rising trend of nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in groundwater through implementation of improved technologies and management practices.

Review of applications will be December 3rd, 2018.

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Position Description

Public Hearing to certify irrigated acres is November 8th

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District will conduct public hearings and certify irrigated acres on November 8, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. These hearings will be held at the District 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

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.