In 2007 the South Platte NRD, North Platte NRD, Upper Niobrara-White NRD, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Panhandle RC&D formed the Panhandle No Till Parnership to bring continuous No Till education opportunities to western Nebraska producers. The Panhandle No Till Partnership has hosted winter workshops that have provided information on the opportunities offered through continuous no till farming.
Team member and NRCS No Till Educator Mark Watson, a no till farm operator from Alliance, has held a number of workshops and field days throughout the Panhandle. Watson works with no till farmers from beginning to experienced to make suggestions regarding their operations. In addition, Watson writes a weekly column, No Till Notes, sharing his knowledge and experiences.
When soil erosion becomes a threat to neighboring property, Districts have the legal authority to mediate a solution under the Erosion and Sediment Control Act. The Act was developed in 1986 when the Nebraska Legislature recognized serious erosion and sedimentation problems throughout the state. At the time a number of land-disturbing activities had caused excessive wind erosion and water runoff and accelerated the process of soil erosion and sediment deposition. That resulted in the pollution of the waters of the state and damage to domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, fish and wildlife, and other resources.
The state’s goal was to strengthen and extend erosion and sediment control activities and programs of the state for both rural and urban lands, to improve water quality, and to establish a statewide, comprehensive, and coordinated erosion and sediment control program to reduce damage from wind erosion and storm water runoff, to retard nonpoint pollution from sediment and related pollutants, and to conserve and protect land, air, and other resources of the state.
Implemented through the Director of Natural Resources and the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, the legislation specified the program would be carried out by the natural resources districts in cooperation with counties, municipalities, and other entities.
In 1987, the SPNRD board of directors adopted the District Erosion and Sediment Control Program, designed to reduce soil erosion in the District to tolerable levels.
Established in 1978, the SPNRD Ground Water Runoff Program is in place to prevent improper irrigation runoff and maintain ground water supplies.
In order to conserve water and to prevent inefficient or improper runoff, each person who uses ground water irrigation is required by the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act to prevent the runoff of water used in irrigation.
The SPNRD program, which meets the Act requirements, addresses the standards of inefficient or improper runoff of ground water used in irrigation, procedures to prevent, control, and abate such runoff, measures for the construction, modification, extension, or operation of remedial measures to prevent, control or abate runoff of ground water used in irrigation.
The Clean Harbors Citizen’s Monitoring Committee, a special committee overseen by the South Platte NRD, provides third party oversight of the Kimball incinerator’s operations. The consultant that the committee works with is Jacque Riener of Southwest Environmental Engineering (McCook, NE). Riener keeps the committee up to date with quarterly reports, reviews permits and compliance issues with the facility and NDEQ and EPA.
The Kimball CHESI facility serves the entire United States as a storage and treatment facility for a variety of industrial waste utilizing a 45,000 ton-per-year fluidized bed incinerator. The state-of-the-art thermal oxidation unit ('"TOU") is capable of maximum destruction efficiencies of hazardous waste and is able to handle an extremely wide variety of feeds.
Citizens’ Monitoring Committee members include Larry Stahla, Dennis Armstrong, Peggy Sanders, Greg Robinson, Steve Diemoz, Jim Johnson (SPNRD Director, Subdistrict 2) and Rod Horn, SPNRD General Manager. The committee meets about 6-8 times a year in Kimball.
We've all heard it for years: Conserve natural resources for future generations. It's just the right thing to do.
It's a noble goal most all of us strive for. And since the mid-1950s, the NRD, NRCS and the former county soil and water conservation districts have been recognizing those southern Panhandle residents who do it best.
In 1995, the District awards were expanded, and those who excelled in planting and caring for trees, managers of grassland, and educators strong in environmental teaching could also be nominated. The award format was altered again in 2010 to recognize efforts affecting natural resources in the District's urban areas.
Each year staff members from the South Platte NRD, Natural Resources Conservation Service and UNL Extension gather to nominate people within the District who excel in the areas of caring for natural resources and also sharing with others the information they’ve gleaned as stewards.
The nominations are forwarded to the SPNRD Board of Directors for approval, and those chosen are honored each fall by the board. In addition, winners are nominated for state-wide awards given either by the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts or the Omaha World Herald.
Congratulations to our past and present award winners, and thank you for helping protect our natural resources.
2012 SPNRD Community Environmental Impact
The South Platte Natural Resources District presented its 2012 Conservation Awards at its monthly board meeting Tuesday, honoring local superintendents from the city of Sidney.
Tom Von Seggern and Bill Taylor were honored with the District’s 2012 Urban Environmental Impact Award.
“Both Tom and Bill are very good at what they do,” said Don Ogle, the District’s information and education coordinator as he outlined the information behind the pair’s award. “Like many of those who work for the area’s various public entities, Tom and Bill excel at their jobs. They perform their required duties as well as they possibly can, because simply put, that’s the type of people they are.”
|Bill Taylor, left, and Tom Von Seggern, right, received plaques from South Platte NRD chair Keith Rexroth recognizing them as winners of the 2012 Urban Environmental Impact Award.|
Ogle went on to say just being good isn’t enough when nominations are reviewed. “The nomination committee looks at the ‘above and beyond’ when it comes to making a difference with stewardship practices.”
Von Seggern, head of the parks and cemetery department, directs care for about 51 acres of area that is watered, plus additional acreage that isn’t. His award was based on a number of longstanding practices, as well as more recent improvements.
Von Seggern manages the Sidney Arboretum and in conjunction with the tree board, and is often responsible for introducing new tree species which thrive in the local climate. One of the steps Tom has initiated in recent years is to mulch around trees. By forming the “tree islands,” he prevents damage from mowers, and maintains healthy moisture levels and soil around the trees.
He also works to encourage tree planting by landowners throughout the city. He has been Chair of the City of Sidney Tree Board since 1999 and each year the tree board has been distributing nearly 100 trees per year for the last several years in Sidney during an annual Arbor Day Celebration. He coordinates the distribution of bare root trees, providing instruction and assistance for residents.
Soil testing is done annually throughout Sidney’s parks. Upon lab recommendations, Von Seggern follows the proper fertilizing procedures. Also, during the last several years only certain areas of the parks are fertilized each year – the areas are then rotated so as to prevent unnecessary contamination and expense. Another key element pointed out is that the city uses organic fertilizer to further environmental protection.
Rain sensor timers were installed on several of the existing automatic sprinkler systems this year. The rain sensors will automatically shut-off the sprinkler system if a rain event occurs to help conserve water. Von Seggern hopes to add such sensors to all areas of the parks and cemetery possible.
Rain barrels were installed on the old bath house near Legion Park to provide a source of water for the volunteers who help take care of Living Memorial Gardens. Rain barrels allow rain fall on roof tops to be captured and used at a later day for watering flowers and garden plants. This helps prevent unwanted runoff and conserves water.
This past winter, working with the Sidney Groundwater Guardian Team, which Bill chairs, all of the steps taken in the care of the Sidney Legion were documented in a Groundwater Guardian Green Site Application. Ogle announced that because of the work Tom and his team perform as part of their duties, Legion Park easily scored high enough to earn status as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site, the third such designation in the district.
Like his counterpart, Taylor, in charge of the water and sewer department, does a lot extra to maintain the natural resources he deals with most – water. He has a large number of locations within Sidney’s wellhead protection areas of concern.
As part of his stewardship effort, Taylor worked with the Rural Water Association to restructure Sidney water rates. Sidney has a reverse water rate structure (the more you use the higher the charge you pay per 1,000 gallons) which encourages the citizens to implement water conservation practices. This is a very unique and creative system that few if any other communities implement.
He works with other City of Sidney Departments to notify residents of water concerns, and to install best management practices, like Legion Park Groundwater Guardian Green Site application.
One of his local activities with water education is to volunteer during the Western Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival. He also chairs the Sidney Groundwater Guardian Team, which has kept the city’s status as a Groundwater Guardian Community since 2000.
But his work doesn’t stop there. He implemented the first Wellhead Protection Plan in the South Platte NRD in 2010. During the process, Taylor and SPNRD’s Ryan Reisdorff identified hundreds of potential contaminants within the wellhead protection area. Taylor uses his experience to assist other communities and water operators in the area – with regard from simple questions to encouraging them to develop wellhead protection plans.
This year Bill initiated a portion of the city’s wellhead protection plan by starting a conservation windbreak and grass planting near the old landfill and grass compost site. This projected included the planting of 201 trees and will convert 12.5 acres of existing crop land into native grass, helping to protect the wellhead site.
In recent years, Bill has had crews painting all City of Sidney storm drains with the message “Dumps to Stream” in an effort to reduce pollution going out of Sidney’s storm drain system. All storm water from the city drains into Lodgepole Creek and Bill has educated students and others about the importance of not dumping or polluting through the drains.
“We are proud to recognize two men who are truly making a difference in protecting the lives and future of those in the city of Sidney,” Ogle says. “They join a list of stewards who have protected natural resources in the southern Panhandle with distinction and provide an example for all of us to follow.”
2012 NARD Community Conservation To Big Springs
The Village of Big Springs was among those recognized for statewide conservation awards, as the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) honored conservationists in five categories. Big Springs received the 2012 award for Outstanding Community Conservation, for its revitalization of a pond on the north side of town.
Built around 1927, the Big Springs Pond had, for many years, served the community as a local fishing hole and later a place for school students to go for observation of environmental and science interests. The pond, fed by precipitation, runoff and a city water well, eventually came into disrepair.
Adeline Ford and Susan McGreer from Big Springs, third and fourth from left, accepted the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts Outstanding Community Conservation Award in Kearney. Joining them were, from left, NARD President Joe Anderjaska, South Platte NRD Director Larry Rutt and on the far right, Judy Ridenour, chair of the NARD awards committee responsible for the award.
In 2009 the Village of Big Springs secured a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to renovate the pond area. Volunteers spent several days identifying dead trees and brush. After that community members and students performed a cleanup of the area, cutting down and removing the trees and brush and getting the area ready for construction. Several locals helped catch the last of the fish, prior to draining the water. Myers Construction from Broken Bow, Ne. came in with heavy equipment and removed stumps, deepened the pond area and cleared and leveled the surrounding beach area and installed a handicap accessible ramp area.
The pond was lined to help with water conservation. Fish habitats where installed and the pond was refilled, reaching the full mark one cold winter morning.
In the spring of 2011, Nebraska Game and Parks stocked the pond with: bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. Soon afterward, community members began trying their luck at the new fishing opportunity, with very pleasing results in a number of instances.
The area, which covers a little more than an acre, will be utilized as an educational worksite for water quality studies, and plant and wildlife habitat development. Students from South Platte School will help with the maintenance around the pond in the future.
In years past, the pond was filled on a regular basis from the town’s water well. With a two-inch line, the town’s maintenance man ran water into the pond for about a week, once every six weeks to maintain the water level. Since the refurbished pond was finished and filled in February, the pond has had to be filled just once to maintain the water level, resulting in an estimated savings of almost 12 million gallons of water being taken out of the town’s well field.
Previously, the tangled dead trees and brush were hazardous for residents and students wanting to use the pond area. Because it is in close proximity to the school, it has been used by some classes for an outdoor learning area where students have taken water samples and observed various forms of wildlife and plants. The cleanup provided a safer environment for those and other outdoor activities.
With the cleanup, parts of the area will be developed for wildlife habitat. While that development has not been started, the change in the area has already become evident in that for the first time, the town maintenance man says he has seen geese at the pond on a regular basis. The expectation is that with the improved habitat, students using the area for outdoors studies will be able to observe greater numbers and varieties of birds and wildlife.
The SPNRD honored the project with its Community Environmental Impact Award in 2011.