2020 Year in Review

Bow Creek In Cedar County
January 4, 2021

In 2020, the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District (LCNRD) board of directors continued to implement projects and services to protect and enhance natural resources which protects the lives, property, and future of Northeast Nebraskans.   LCNRD activities are led by a board of eleven locally elected directors; Carolyn Heine and Russ Schmidt, St Helena; Jeff Steffen and Marcel Kramer, Crofton; Dave Condon, Creighton; Bill Christensen and Gary Howey, Hartington; Matt Weinandt, Wynot; Chris Johnson, Bloomfield; Curtis Armstrong, Ponca; Leroy Hoesing, Newcastle.  

LCNRD provided cost share funds to local landowners and operators through several local, state and federal programs to financially assist in implementing conservation practices.  In 2020 contracts were approved for conservation practices to protect land and water resources which included: grass seedings, planned grazing systems, cover crops, irrigation management, brush management, deep soil sampling, windbreak renovations, well sealing and tree plantings.  Technical assistance for many of the programs offered by LCNRD is provided by conservation partners, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NG&PC).

LCNRD was awarded over $550,000 in grant funds to be used over the next 3 years from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) and the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) to address surface water quality impairments including E.coli, sedimentation and nutrients in the  Bow Creek Watershed.  These funds will be used to assist producers in implementing best management practices on cropland and rangeland shown to be effective in     decreasing impacts from impairments.  Working in conjunction with NRCS, the Bow Creek Watershed Project will offer implementation and education payments to minimize the risks associated with implementing new practices and increase producer impact on water quality as they master new conservation practices on their acres. Becky Ravenkamp started as the project coordinator in July and brings a strong conservation farming and ranching background to the table. The Project kicked off this year by working with Dr. Andrea Basche, UNL and senior capstone agriculture students who met with producers, Tom Wiebelhaus, Fordyce, Jeff Steffen, Crofton, Claude Pinkelman and Matt Weinandt, Wynot and Dave Sudbeck, Hartington to develop farm plans with the producers that have the potential to improve farm profitability and Bow Creek water quality.

Watershed activities also continue in the Aowa Creek Watershed in Dixon County where maintenance and operation of 50 structures is critical to protecting residents and property from erosion and flood impacts.   Powder Creek, the largest structure in the watershed, provides 317 acres of grassland, 40 acres of timber land, and a 110-acre lake for public use, no park fees required.  The project effectively reduces flood potential for 81% of the Aowa Creek Watershed.

Water quality and quantity trends are monitored in 237 irrigation, domestic, and/or stock wells and 63 dedicated observation wells across the district.  Many areas of the district are experiencing increased nitrate levels including the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) which was designated in 2004 to address high nitrate levels in groundwater.  LCNRD continues to work with local producers to reduce nitrogen contamination in the BGMA and across the district through education and the implementation of rules and regulations drafted to address contamination in areas where nitrate-nitrogen concentrations exceed the federal Maximum Contaminant Level of 10 parts per million. Ground water levels are measured bi-annually in 34 key irrigation and domestic/stock wells to monitor and protect groundwater quantity.  The irrigation pumping season was heavier in 2020 than in recent years and showed average water levels lower than the fall of 2019 with 31 of the 34 wells measured showing a lower water level than the fall of 2019.  Groundwater level conditions continue to be favorable, however, it is important to note, dry conditions and/or irrigation use could impact water levels at any time in the future.  Conservation of groundwater resources is as important today as it is in times of drought.

Natural resources education is a priority of the directors and staff. In 2020 LCNRD co-sponsored the 31st annual high school water festival, “Wonderful World of Water” held at Gillman Park in Pierce.  This annual program is aimed at educating high school freshman and sophomores on major issues concerning groundwater.  Several teams from schools in Northeast Nebraska attend the daylong program.  During Soil and Water Stewardship Week, bulletins, litanies, and program inserts are provided to area churches for distribution to their congregations.  Soil and Water Stewardship is sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)  who also sponsors a youth poster contest. This year’s national “Life in the Soil: Dig Deeper” poster contest winner in the Grade 2-3 division was Kiersten Hans, Bloomfield Schools.  LCNRD offered nitrate-nitrogen testing of water to area cooperators and seedling trees to school students in recognition of Arbor Day at no charge.   

 

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