December 19 Board Mtg

Central Platte NRD Reports Historic Groundwater Level Increases from Spring to Fall

(GRAND ISLAND, NE)- The Central Platte Natural Resources District (CPNRD) saw historic groundwater level increases in 2019. On Thursday, Luke Zakrzewski, data image analyst, reported to the CPNRD board of directors that of the 363 wells read by staff in both the spring and the fall this year, there was a district-wide gain of 0.76 feet from Gothenburg to Columbus.

With crop irrigation that normally takes place from May until August in central Nebraska, it is unusual to have wells that record an increase from spring to fall. The historic precipitation that the District received attributed to 210 of the well levels increasing an average of 2.51 feet; and 153 wells that declined an average of 1.65 feet. Zakrzewski said 20 of the wells recorded their highest groundwater level and 50 wells had readings in the top 10% of their respective historic range. Most of the wells have been monitored each spring and fall by the CPNRD since the mid-1980s.

Other Board Agenda Items

-Board Secretary & Treasurer  Deb VanMatre, Gibbon, was nominated for a second term as board secretary by the NRD’s board nominating committee. Keith Ostermeier, Grand Island, was nominated for board treasurer. Officers may serve two, two-year terms. Chuck Maser, Grand Island, has served two full terms as treasurer and is not eligible for re-election. The election will be held at the January 23rd board meeting.

-Funding Request  The board approved assisting Hall County with funding up to $30,000 for a portion of the County’s Amick Acres subdivision project.

-Cease & Desist Update  Tricia Dudley, groundwater quality programs assistant, reported that of the 58 cease & desist orders issued to producers in December for failure to submit crop report forms for the CPNRD’s Nitrogen Management Program, 19 are still out of compliance. If those producers irrigate, they will be in violation of the Cease & Desist Order. If the order is violated, the landowner/producer’s violation will be turned over to the District’s legal counsel for further action. The 19 producers out of compliance represent about two percent of the 900 producers in the program.

-Voting Delegates   The board elected Deb VanMatre as voting delegate and Jay Richeson as alternate for the Nebraska Association of Resources District’s Legislative Conference to be held January 28-29, 2020, at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln, NE.

-Rental Agreement  The board approved extending a rental agreement for one year with Tyler Kugler on land purchased by CPNRD in March 2018. Lyndon Vogt, general manager, reported that JEO is currently researching several options concerning future management of the property which could provide recharge to the Platte River including the potential retirement of irrigated acres, transferring water from the South Side Irrigation District canal, and directly discharging flows into the river from an adjacent property. These potential flows back to the river would help the CPNRD meet requirements of CPNRD’s Integrated Management Plan, the Basin-Wide Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management, and Nebraska’s New Depletions Plan.

-Grant Letter  The board approved a letter of support to The Nature Conservancy for a grant through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Partners include The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Central Platte NRD, and Upper Big Blue NRD. The goal of the proposed project “Resilient Futures for Nebraska Soils,” is to expand soil health practice adoption across the two NRDs, impacting up to 100,000 acres or 60-80 producers utilizing practices to reduce erosion, nutrient retention, improve pest management, as well as increased biological activity, yield, and water holding capacity.

-Platte River Program  Mark Czaplewski, biologist, reported that the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program’s (PRRIP) Governance Committee met on December 3 in Denver. They reviewed and approved the FY 2020 budget and work plan as well as a contract extension for retention of Headwaters as the Program’s Executive Directors Office.  The budget includes $12.9 million in new funds not including funding for storage lease transfers to the Environmental Account in Lake McConaughy, which are yet to be negotiated.

The meeting included an update of the process to extend the Program’s First Increment. Much progress has occurred in the last few days. As of this last Monday, all three of the basin state governors have signed a Cooperative Agreement document extending the first Program increment and it is on Secretary of the Interior’s desk for his signature.  The House Appropriations Committee released legislative packages on Monday that included the PRRIP extension as a rider. The House and Senate have approved the appropriations bill.

Czaplewski also reported that the Program is setting up a process to begin discussions about target flows and how they could be adapted based on better science that’s now available and how they are implemented.

-Managers Report  Lyndon Vogt, general manager, reported that the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and CPNRD will advertise to hire a joint information/education assistant in March 2020. The individual will have an office at the Central Platte NRD. He also reported that Laurie Lage, senior legal counsel for the Nebraska Natural Resources Committee, will be taking a new job at the end of the year.

-Nebraska Natural Resources Commission  Mick Reynolds, Middle Platte Basin representative, reported that five projects were approved for funding through the Water Sustainability Fund with a sixth project recommended to be funded by utilizing the cap to borrow against the future year funding. Reynolds said the committee’s request to fund the sixth project is the first time the Commission has recommended borrowing against future funding.

-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)  Joe Krolikowski, district liaison, reported that NRCS has made changes to the Highly Erodible Land (HEL) and Wetland determination process. Since March 2019, Nebraska has moved to a team concept for completing wetland determination requests. This change is intended to help improve the processing time of these requests, and to also help maintain consistency across the State. The HEL determinations are being completed by the local NRCS staff located in the field office in each county.

-Cost-Share  Three applications through the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation and the Central Platte NRD cost-share programs were approved for tree planting and well decommissioning in the amount of $1,630.

-Awards  Service awards were presented to directors Keith Stafford for 25 years of service and Mick Reynolds for 10 years of service on the board; and to the following staff members: Tom Backer, projects assistant-35 years; Marcia Lee, information/education specialist-20 years; David Carr, range management specialist- 15 years; Samantha Keith, Dawson County district secretary-10 years.

-Upcoming Events
– Board of Directors Meetings: January 23, February 27, and March 26.
– CPNRD Water Programs Update: February 12 from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Dawson County Extension in Lexington, NE.