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South Platte NRD’s Ryan Reisdorff Joins Water Leaders Academy Class VI

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Ryan Reisdorff of Sidney has been accepted as a member of the Class VI of the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy, a one-year program that educates participants about the vital role rivers, streams and aquifers play in the economic sustainability of the state.

Reisdorff is a water resources specialist for South Platte Natural Resources District; his job includes overseeing wellhead protection and best management practices for the district.

A 2000 graduate of Chadron State College, Reisdorff began his current job in 2009. He worked for the NRD for eight years then took a position with Cabela’s before rejoining the NRD in his present position. He also has worked for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Reisdorff grew up near Osceola. He is the son of Pat and Don Reisdorff. He said that growing up on a farm that had both irrigated and dry land acres taught him an appreciation for water and water management.

Water Leaders Academy sessions feature classroom and field trip experiences presented by acknowledged experts in leadership and natural resource topics held at locations across the state. The Nebraska State Irrigation Association sponsors the program.

The Water Leaders Academy is partially funded through a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and more than 25 other organizations and individuals.

More information can be found at www.waterleadersacademy.org.

 

 

Several Items Discussed at December Board Meeting

 

The 2015 Fiscal Year Audit Report was received by the South Platte Natural Resources District Board (Board) at their regular December Meeting.  Julia Peetz, CPA with Rauner and Associates, stated in her presentation to the Board that the report was clean and will be submitted to the Nebraska State Auditor.


Oliver Reservoir was discussed as Galen Wittrock, Assistant General Manager, and Ryan Reisdorff, Water Resources Specialist, met with the Nebraska State Patrol for guidance for proposed changes to the Rules and Regulations at Oliver Reservoir for the 2016 season.  The proposed changes had been previously discussed by the Oliver Reservoir Advisory Committee led by Mr. Wittrock.  Rod Horn, General Manager, also updated the Board on the conditional approval for a request for funding on the Oliver Reservoir Streamflow Enhancement Project through the Platte Basin Coalition.

 
Prior to the Board meeting, the District Operations Committee met and discussed approving a Second Amendment to the Interlocal Agreement with the City of Sidney establishing the Joint East Sidney Watershed Authority.  Discussion was also held concerning The Ranch at Sidney, LLC, for an extension to file the Third Supplemental Order due on December 31, 2015, to March 30, 2016 to give time for the result of a Nebraska Environmental Trust fund grant request by The Ranch.  Also discussed was an approval of a construction line of credit for the proposed upgrade to the South Platte NRD building. All committee items were brought before the Board and passed.


Before the Board adjourned, special recognition was given to two Board members and one Staff member for years of service.  Receiving recognition for over 10 years of service as a Board member was Jim Johnson.  Bill Halligan was recognized for over 5 years of service to the Board.  Ryan Reisdorff was recognized for over 5 years of service to the South Platte NRD.  Congratulations to these three who continue to serve and work for the District.

 

 

NARD Conservation Award Winners

Two local families were recently recognized for their excellence in conservation practices at the 2015 Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Annual Conference held at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney September 28 – 29.  Recognized at the Monday luncheon were Doug and Theresa Keller of Kimball and Steve Schumacher of Dalton. 

Doug and Theresa Keller won Outstanding Grassland Award after being nominated by the South Platte NRD.  The award acknowledges those individuals or families who promote grassland management.

Steve Schumacher won the Outstanding Tree Planter Award also nominated by the South Platte NRD.  Promoting tree planting in the State of Nebraska is the primary criteria for the Outstanding Tree Planter Award. 

Both the Kellers and Mr. Schumacher utilize the many programs available through the South Platte NRD to promote conservation efforts in the State of Nebraska.  Programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Nebraska Soil & Water Conservation Program (NSWCP), and the South Platte NRD’s Conservation Tree Program and Community Forestry Program offer cost share options that help financially with conservation efforts. 

 

Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area a Success

July 21, 2015

During the July, 2015 SPNRD board meeting Kent Matsutani was invited to give a report about progress at the Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area (ORRA) which is located 8 miles west of Kimball.

Matsutani, along with Randy Gunn, technicians for the SPNRD at ORRA, began work at the site in late April of this year and Matsutani dicussed several upgrades made this past spring.

One important upgrade has been to the restrooms.Ventilation and a cleaner environment have been key steps to making a better experience for those visiting. Another area of priority was to clean and repair the picnic tables and the playground area. More signage and a new buoy system are also helping visitors to navigate the reservoir area.

The SPNRD took over the day to day operations of ORRA in February of 2014 after the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced the temporary closure due to budget concerns on August 30th, 2013. The announcement prompted the District and interested persons in the Kimball area to take action to prevent the closure. At the September, 2013 SPRND board meeting a resolution was approved to ask that the Game and Parks Commission pass the operational duties to the District. The Commission agreed and by February, 2014 full operation began under the District with the help of hte Oliver Reservoir Advisory Committee made up of volunteers who took on the task of creating a better experience for visitors.

Unfortunately vandalism had taken its toll on many of the amenities. Before work could begin on upgrades, general repair was needed in many areas. The first year of operation saw upkeep as a priority. Now in its second year of operation, the District was able to budget for upgrades including new lawn mowers and the use of a gator. The Districts tree planting services planted over 200 trees to help beautify and provide shade.

When asked about comments about ORRA, Matsutani stated that there were many comments about how fun the spring was. "We have had many good comments from campers, especially those from out of state. The Fourth of July weekend was one of our busiest with 40 - 50 campers including tents at the reservoir. Otherwise weekends are fairly full."

Galen Witrock, who represented the District on the Reservoir Advisory Committee, stated that during the first year of operation he had many new experiences but the real enjoyment is seeing everything come together.

With plans being made for future projects, the Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area will be a place worth visiting for many years to come.

 

Sidney Captures Second At State Envirothon

COZAD – The Sidney High School Envirothon team made a run at the Nebraska state championship here at Camp Comeca, falling by points to champion Concordia High School in the end.

Sidney tied Concordia in one of the seven skill areas, Aquatics, but Concordia topped all teams in five additional areas to capture their third straight state title. Concordia will now prepare for the National Envirothon in Springfield, Missouri in July.

On the way to state, student teams, consisting of five members, first competed in one of six regional contests around the state. The highest scoring teams earned the opportunity to compete at the state competition.

Sidney led a contingent of three teams from the West Region, covering the Panhandle. Also competing from the region were teams from Chadron and Creek Valley.

Sidney team members included Skylar Arent, Tanner Nienhueser, Theda Parker, Logan Uhlir and Ryan Birner; Creek Valley team members were Logan Criswell, Noemi Marin, Josh Schievelbein, Allie Blackwelder and Cooper Riley. Murphy Churchill, Toni Doescher, Brooke Roes, Greta Welch and Clay Madsen represented Chadron.

In Evnvirothon competition, five-member teams compete in seven areas of environmental studies: soils, aquatics, forestry, wildlife, range, policy and present on a current environmental issue. This year’s special topic was urban forestry. Test questions are not only written, but many require hands-on observations, measurements and calculations.

“The kids love this competition,” said Jim Johnson, from Dix, Board Member of the Nebraska Association of Resources and Chair of the Information and Education Committee. “Envirothon is the perfect opportunity for students to see what it may be like to work in natural resources in the future and protect our state’s environment,” said Johnson.

Nebraska Association of Resources Districts is the annual sponsor of the Nebraska Envirothon. The first, second, and third overall placing teams received recognition from the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts. NARD gave $1,500 to the first place winning team, $1,000 to the second place winning team and $500 to the third place winning team. Each team has to use the money to enhance their high school’s natural resources and agriculture programs. The winning team can also use it to help pay their way to the national competition. Each team member on the winning team was also awarded a $500 dollar scholarship by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to be used towards a major in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Other sponsors and supporters for this year’s Envirothon include FYRA Engineering, Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), Midwest Laboratories, Nebraska Forest Service, Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center, Farm Credit Services of America, Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, HDR, Olsson Associates, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources.


Final Seat Filled On SPNRD Board

The South Platte NRD board is full again following the appointment to fill the vacancy left by former Subdistrict 6 Director Tom Biggs, who retired at the end of 2014. No one filed for the seat in the November election, setting up the need for an appointed director.

Two candidates, Randy Horst of Gurley and Kathy Narjes of rural Lodgepole applied for the position. Each was interviewed during the District’s February board meeting, outlining their qualifications and reasons for their application. Following the interviews a written ballot and subsequent roll call vote was taken to see who would be the nominee.

Narjes, who takes part in a farm and ranch operation with her husband Phil and also serves as a part-time legal assistant, was chosen to fill the seat. Her appointment is until the next election in two years, at which time she can run to continue her term.

Beginning its regular business, the board heard a number of agency reports, fielding updates on groups that directors are involved in, or that deal with natural resources issues. Among those was one from Board Chair Keith Rexroth on the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, which is charged with helping to conserve, protect, and utilize the water and related land resources of the state. The commission, which oversees state aid funding for natural resources projects, was expanded last year and is in the process of preparing and finalizing the rules governing the administration of the Water Sustainability Fund.

Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Kaiser presented a summary of the 2014 landowner/operator nitrogen management reports for the Sidney Ground Water Quality Management Subarea . The subarea is the only one of the District’s ground water quality management subareas currently designated to be in Phase II nitrogen management. Such heightened management, the second of three phased management tiers, is instituted when a subarea has average ground water nitrates above 8.0 parts per million and up to 9.5 ppm.

As part of Phase II management, corn growers are required to report nitrogen use. Corn was grown on approximately 1,800 acres within the subarea and the composite average for nitrate results (found in the 2014 SPNRD Ground Water Quality Monitoring Report) was 8.01 ppm. This was down compared to last year’s average of 9.03 ppm.

Assistant Manager Galen Wittrock reported on the East Sidney Watershed Project, and the Joint East Sidney Watershed Authority’s (JESWA) progress on working with landowners within the Project area to obtain necessary easements and land rights as the Project moves forward. Wittrock also reported impending approval for funding through the state revolving loan fund.

In other reports the board:
-Received an update on the NRD/UNL Irrigation and Nitrogen Management Education and Certification Program. The Program is an update to one first established in 1999 and will be available to irrigators through both written and on-line means. The District has been among the NRDs participating in the update and hopes to use it when certifying irrigators prior to the 2016 irrigation season.
-Received a report on the Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area plans and equipment being purchased for operations.
-Approved a proposed agreement with the JEO Consulting Group to begin processing an update to the District’s Hazard Mitigation Plan.


Board Begins Year With A New Member

The South Platte Natural Resources District board of directors began the year by welcoming a new member into its fold, while choosing Keith Rexroth to continue his role as chairman.

Phil Grabowski of rural Sidney joined the board after being elected last November, replacing long-time board member Paul Hutchison, who retired at the end of his term last year. Grabowski is a farmer and rancher and will represent NRD Subdistrict 4, covering southwest Cheyenne county including a portion of southwest Sidney.

Grabowski was sworn in just prior to the board meeting, along with Jim Johnson of Dix, who was re-elected to serve Subdistrict 2, covering eastern Kimball County and part of western Cheyenne County.

As part of its annual reorganization and committee assignments, Director Bill Halligan of Bushnell was chosen as vice-chair, and Johnson will be secretary. District General Manager Rod L. Horn was re-appointed as board treasurer.

Committee assignments included Halligan and Johnson on the District Operations Committee, with Halligan to chair; and Director Tim Maas chairing the Natural Resources/Projects and Programs Committee, on which Grabowski and Larry Rutt will also serve.  There is currently no director serving from Subdistrict 6, and final committee assignments will be following the appointment filling that opening.

Final appointments were Johnson to serve as the board representative to the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, with Rutt as alternate.

The board also participated in a caucus to choose a representative from the South Platte River Basin to serve on the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, which oversees the state’s aid programs toward water and related land resources. Rexroth, who has served the basin for a number of years, was chosen to continue as the basin representative.

The board heard a report from Chris Kaiser, the District’s natural resources coordinator, on the 2014 Ground Water Quality Monitoring Program.

Kaiser reported that 171 of the District’s 212 monitoring network were sampled at least once in 2014 between May and October, 60 of those domestic and the remaining were irrigation wells.

One of the key changes pointed out in the report is within the South Platte Valley Ground Water Management Area. That area, which was reduced to Phase I management in 2012, had its second consecutive year over the 80 percent Minimum Contaminant Level (MCL) for nitrates. By standards set for safe drinking water by the Environmental Protection area MCL for nitrates is 10 parts-per-million.
Should the area exceed 80 percent of MCL again in 2015, it would qualify to go back under more intensive Phase II management requirements to reduce nitrate levels.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Lodgepole Valley GWMA, which has been in Phase I control, saw its average remain under the 6.5 ppm trigger for the second year in a row.

The District’s only ground water management subarea in Phase II management, the Sidney GWMA, dipped more than a point to 8.01, but remains above the Phase II trigger.

In other business, the board:

-Scheduled a public hearing on updates to the Districtwide Ground Water Management Area Rules and Regulations. The hearing will be Tuesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m., or 15 minutes following the end of an information session.  One of the more substantive changes proposed is incorporating rules and fees related to the Nebraska Chemigation Act.
-Approved the purchase of equipment for use at Oliver Reservoir.
-Authorized staff to finalize scope of services and an agreement with JEO Consulting Group for consideration at the February board meeting. With an approved agreement, JEO will begin the process to update the District’s Hazard Mitigation Plan.


South Platte NRD Honors Retiring Members

The South Platte Natural Resources District board of directors closed out its final meeting of 2014 by bidding farewell to a pair of retiring long term members.

Directors Paul Hutchison and Tom Biggs attended their last meeting as part of a board that established most of the District’s water management rules and regulations during their tenures.

Both were board members when LB 962, the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act, was passed by the Nebraska Legislature. The resulting Districtwide Ground Water Management Area Rules and Regulations and the District’s Integrated Management Plan that serve as the backbone of the District’s ground water management were major achievements.

Following a brief recognition ceremony where they were given plaques and heard resolutions passed in their honor, board members reminisced about long meetings involved in those processes.

Hutchison has served the District since 1995, while Biggs has been on the board since 1999.

Potential changes to the Districtwide Ground Water Management Area Rules and Regulations (DWGWMARR) and the IMP were introduced as part of the meeting, leading up to hearings in February and March. A number of changes are housekeeping items, although others are more substantive.

In the overview, General Manager Rod Horn highlighted several items, including a plan to integrate the District’s chemigation rules and permit application fee schedule into the DWGWMARR. Due to changes in state law, chemigation rules will be changing and with such changes, Horn feels folding the rules together will streamline their availability.

Another change being considered is a requirement on irrigation replacement wells. Currently, replacement wells must not be any larger (by pumping capacity) than the well they replace. Horn said, however, that with allocations limiting the amount of water being pumped for irrigation it may not make a difference what size the well is.

In accordance with another change in state law, another proposed change is the inclusion of application fees for variance requests. The new law provides for application fees to help cover costs associated with such requests.

The board also received its audit report from Rauner and Associates, a report that indicated the District’s is in solid condition financially and there are no compliance issues in its bookkeeping or management practices.

As a tax-supported entity, the District is audited annually. It received an “Unqualified” rating, the best given in such reviews.
In other business the board:

  1. Received a report on the Oliver Reservoir Advisory Committee, which is currently in the process of setting short and long term goals for the area. The group plans to have those plans laid out by March.
  2. Heard an update on the East Sidney Watershed Project. Project leaders are waiting to hear on funding sources for work which will provide water quality and flood protection to areas of southeast Sidney. Once funding is identified, design and engineering work can begin.
  3. Approved an action to allow the decommissioning of six abandoned water wells owned and formerly operated by the Nebraska Department of Roads.

 

Land Use Approval Provides Learning Opportunity

At their November meeting the South Platte Natural Resources District board of directors approved the use of a half-acre plot at Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area for an outreach program to be undertaken by the Mile High Pheasants Forever chapter.

The program includes participation by Kimball elementary students, who will help plant pollinators while learning about their importance in nature.

The District is happy to provide the land for the Pheasants Forever pollinator project, sharing PF’s two main priorities that:

  1. Pollinating insects are an essential component in global food production. Approximately one-third of all food and beverages is delivered by pollinators and many species of native pollinators and domestic honey bees are in decline.
  2. Today’s youth spend a majority of their time fixated on electronic devices and less than half of the time outdoors that their parents did. One in four are obese. They will not develop a conservation ethic or attachment to the land without experiences that are fun and involve them personally.

The project will get underway next spring.

In anticipation of filling one board seat with an appointment soon, the board also approved amendments to the District’s operating policies relating to vacancies. The changes are mostly updates bringing local policy into line with state statute.

One of the key changes is that of the term to be served by an appointee. Because the vacancy in question is within the first two years of the four-year board term, the appointment will be for two years. That person will then need to file for re-election for the final two years of the term.
The vacancy was created by the retirement of Subdistrict 6 Director Tom Biggs, who represents northeastern Cheyenne County, including part of Sidney. No one filed for the elective office, resulting in the opening.

The City of Chappell was granted a variance to transfer 37.54 certified acres from land owned by Derry Farms, Inc.  The transfer provides the ability for the city to offset any potential increase in their baseline water use due to the Chappell Waste Water Project. The project wills likely increase Chappell’s water use because it changes the town’s wastewater from a treatment facility which has an outflow to Lodgepole Creek, to a full retention facility.

In other business, the board:

-Heard a report on the District Chemigation Program for 2014. The program, which is used to monitor systems to protect ground water, oversaw a total of 370 permits this past growing season. A total of 185 systems were subject to random and periodic inspection to determine with the Nebraska Chemigation Act and four permits were suspended due to faulty equipment.

-Ratified the appointments of Dave Schnell and Wilson Bowling of Kimball to serve on the Oliver Reservoir Advisory Committee. The appointments were made to replace members who had stepped down.

-Approved staff to begin the bidding process for equipment needed to maintain Oliver Reservoir.

District Participates In Aquifer Recharge Project

Working together, the South Platte Natural Resources District (SPNRD), Twin Platte Natural Resources District (TPNRD), Western Irrigation District, and landowners in Keith and Deuel Counties are taking advantage of the excess flows in the South Platte River.  These entities are working together to turn high flows in the South Platte River into ground water recharge.

The goal of this project is to capture the excess water, or amount of water that is not already permitted for downstream uses, and recharge it into the ground water aquifer instead of just letting it flow by unused.

In southeastern Deuel County, and southwestern Keith County there are 15 pits situated in a coarse gravelly type soil which leak large amounts of water.  The pits were chosen because they leak South Platte River water into the ground water faster than they can fill up, and their locations are ideal for this type of project.

In order to divert flows from the South Platte River, permits from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR) were obtained to divert South Platte River water into the Western Irrigation District, which is then routed down the canal and into the approved re-use pits that are not currently in use. The NDNR, which regulates the state’s surface water, is carefully monitoring the river levels so the recharge project does not limit water available for existing permitted uses.

This is not the first time the Western Irrigation District, local landowners, the SPNRD, and the TPNRD have worked together on an effort like this.  Similar projects occurred during the fall 2013 South Platte River flood, and twice in 2011 during high flows in the North and South Platte Rivers.

The SPNRD and TPNRD protect lives, property, and the future availability of water resources through a wide range of stewardship, management, and education programs. Activities and projects of NRDs are reviewed and approved by a locally elected board of directors. There are 23 natural resources districts across the state.

 

Tree Health A Concern Following Drought

Across the region, tree health, or rather mortality, has been an increasing concern for landowners. Hundreds of trees, primarily in conservation plantings and windbreaks, have died following unusually extreme hot and dry conditions last summer.

“Our area has always provided more than its share of challenges to tree health,” says Galen Wittrock, the District’s assistant manager and tree program coordinator. “With our high ph, low rain fall amounts and wide temperature variations, trees are under stress a lot of the time.”
But few years saw the lasting effects of 2012, which quickly built into a long, hot period with little relief for plants. In our area, rainfall during the growing season was just less than seven inches, far less than the 17-inch average.

As a result, Wittrock and other tree specialists across the region and state have been fielding a record number of calls from landowners about trees that seem to be dying.

“We’ve seen a lot of trees, most up to 10 years old, that died because of the drought,” says Wittrock. “But we’ve also seen it happen to trees 40 and 50 years old. In a lot of cases, the tree rows have been established and no longer get supplemental water. With the weather we got last year, they just couldn’t keep up.”

TreeDeathDamage
The tree on the left is dead, but the tree on the right still shows a good amount of life in its branches and might be saved with good watering.

Wittrock says trees always benefit from supplemental irrigation, but particularly in extremely dry years. “They still need the equivalent of 10 inches of annual precipitation or more.”

While many trees are obviously dead, some may look bad but aren’t beyond hope.

“We have seen some evergreen trees that have a lot of brown in them, but could still recover,” says Wittrock. “Some of them have shown new growth and that shows they are still viable.”

Wittrock says if you want to give trees supplemental irrigation, the time to do it is now.

“The sooner we can get water to these trees the better,” Wittrock says of the stressed trees. He says to properly water such trees, the water should be applied not near the trunk, but at the dripline (where the branches end).

“That’s where they’ll get the most benefit. Most of the feeder roots are there, and it will help the tree develop additional strength and ability to survive from those feeders.”

To tell if a tree needs water, push a long screwdriver or similar object into the soil. If the soil moisture level is adequate, it should be fairly easy to push the screwdriver into the ground 8 to 10 inches. If the ground is dry and in need of watering it typically is very difficult to push the screwdriver in more than a couple of inches.

Infrequent deep watering, equivalent to 1-2 inches of rain, is the most beneficial to trees. Such watering two or three times through the summer should help the trees recover if they will.

For homeowners, mulch around the tree 3-4 inches deep will help retain moisture. Mulch three feet out from the trunk on small trees, while large trees will benefit from mulch six feet out or more. When applying mulch, make sure it doesn’t rest against the trunk, which can cut off the tree’s ability to transport nutrients.

 

Joint Authority Formed To Manage East Sidney Drainage Issues

The District and the City of Sidney have been holding joint meetings for several months, working toward the development of options to alleviate problems caused by excessive drainage in southeast Sidney.

The entities have formed the Joint East Sidney Watershed Authority (JESWA) to manage a joint effort to reduce runoff and associated problems from the drainage area.

east_sid_boundary
The east Sidney drainage area, outlined in red.


For a number of years, large rains have been a problem as development continues, changing runoff patterns. Flooding that has the potential to carry contaminants and silt, as well as resulting erosion, has prompted the effort for controlling the runoff.

The area boundaries run from Lodgepole Creek to just south of Interstate 80 and from 11th Ave. to County Road 117 and covers approximately 2,300 acres. Several separate drainages feed north from the area down to the creek.

All of the water eventually drains to Lodgepole Creek and the effects of the silt and possible water contamination are a concern. Another concern is the potential for damage to developed areas, as well as future development.

JESWA was formed to allow the entities – the city as the immediate jurisdictional entity, and the NRD with authority to assist with flood mitigation – to pool resources and funding options to find a solution.

Carter Hubbard, with engineering firm Olsson Associates of Lincoln, presented three options the firm feels would be viable solutions to control runoff. The options address concerns to alleviate issues in regard to both water quality and flood damage.

All three options use a combination of water quality ponds, vegetated bioswales (a bioswale is a densely vegetated shallow channel that slowly channels water downstream) and hardscape features such as culverts to divert water.

As the JESWA board moves forward, it will be looking at a number of key factors in protecting the area. Those include working with landowners who may be affected by the project's costs and changes to the property, as well as looking for funding sources to develop the protective measures.

The JESWA board, made of SPNRD Manager Rod Horn and Assistant Manager Galen Wittrock, and Sidney City Manager Gary Person and Public Services Director John Hehnke, will now continue to review the proposals and determine a possible course of action. The JESWA recommendation will be taken to the respective governing bodies for final approval.

SPNRD Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation In Effect

The District-led Multijurisdicational Hazard Mitigation Plan is now in effect, opening the door to participating entities which have needs protecting residents in the event of natural disasters.

Under the Disaster Management Act of 2000, local entities are required to form a Hazard Mitigation Plan to take action before a disaster occurs to reduce or eliminate threats.

The area Hazard Mitigation Plan is a proactive approach to preparing for natural disaster responses. Since 2010, more than 20 entities from across the District worked to identify and prioritize potential hazards, and identify pre-disaster mitigation projects where possible.

Once threats were identified, the plan was made. Based on that plan, participating entities can receive federal funding to put mitigation projects, such as storm shelters, levees, or other efforts into practice. The final draft was submitted to the Nebraska and Federal Emergency Management Agencies for approval.

Development of a hazard mitigation plan allows for federal disaster assistance that would otherwise be unavailable to affected disaster areas. With the plan, federal funding may also be available for mitigation projects.

The district-wide project encouraged participation by all taxing entities, with public participation serving as a key element in the process. The plan was developed with the assistance of a federal grant covering 75 percent of the cost. SPNRD sponsored the area’s share of the cost, approximately $23,000. The JEO Consulting Group from Lincoln formed the plan.

Entities participating and approving plans include: Big Spring Fire Dept., Village of Bushnell, Chappell Airport, City of Chappell, Cheyenne County, Village of Dalton, Deuel County, Village of Dix, Village of Gurley, Kimball Airport, Kimball County, Kimball Public Schools, City of Kimball, Village of Lodgepole, Potter-Dix School, Village of Potter, Region 21 Emergency Management, Sidney Public Schools, City of Sidney, South Platte NRD, Western Irrigation District.

For more information on this planning effort contact Ryan Reisdorff, Water Resources Specialist, at (308) 254-2377 or rreisdorff@spnrd.org
.


Program Provides Options To Preserve Area’s Grassland Cover

With the potential expiration of contracts protecting more than 260,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in the Panhandle by 2013, Panhandle natural resources districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have teamed together to preserve regional grassland cover.

Preserving CRP Benefits in Western Nebraska, a three year program funded by the NRDs and a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET), seeks to ensure highly erodible land remains in cover, yet continues to produce income for landowners.

Originally focusing on lands at high risk for erosion, CRP removed them from agricultural production and established native or alternative vegetative cover in an effort to stop soil erosion. Since then, the CRP program has expanded to protect land and water resources, wetlands, and wildlife habitat.

With the large amount of acres that could potentially be returned to production due to expiring contracts, officials have been concerned over the possible loss of CRP’s benefits to air, water, soil and wildlife resources. With that in mind the NRDs, with the South Platte as lead agency, joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and NRCS for a NET grant to help landowners with CRP contracts maintain their grasslands.

Funding to build perimeter fences around CRP ground is one of the program’s main benefits. While NRCS programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provide for assistance with other components to implement a livestock grazing system, perimeter fences are not.

To round out grazing practices, producers can use EQIP assistance for livestock water wells, pipelines, cross fencing, inter-seeding and re-seeding of land, and more.

For those who wish to maintain the benefits of the grassland, but do not want a grazing system, other options are also available through NRCS. Their specialists can help form a plan that could include windbreaks, wildlife habitat or enhancements, or other options.

The three-year program is ready to take initial applications, which will be accepted year-around. Those applications should be ranked and recommended for award approximately once every quarter.

For more program information, contact your local NRCS or NRD office.

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