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NRD Approves New Rules on Water Use, Lifts Temporary Stay on Well Drilling

“Special Quantity Subareas” Created in Butler/Saunders & Platte/Colfax Counties To Deal With Water Level Declines

A “time out” on well drilling in the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District ended in January, when the NRD Board of Directors approved new rules on water use.

The Board action lifted a temporary district-wide stay on well drilling and expansion of irrigated acres that was declared last October, and created two new “Special Quantity Subareas” where groundwater shortages have been an acute concern. 

The Special Quantity Subareas are located within Butler/Saunders and Platte/Colfax counties. The Butler/Saunders area covers approximately 56 square miles of east-central Butler County and 30 square miles of west-central Saunders County. The Platte/Colfax area covers approximately 100 square miles of central Platte County and 32 square miles of west-central Colfax County.

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Groundwater Conditions in the Special Quantity Subareas

In January, two “Special Quanity Subareas” (SQSs) were designated in parts of Butler/Saunders and Platte/Colfax counties due to concerns about the long-term viability of their groundwater supplies (see story above). So what makes these areas different than other parts of the district? 

In a word: geology. The aquifers underlying the SQS regions are largely “confined” (also known as artesian aquifers) and are sealed off by layers of clay or other impermeable material.  Water levels in these types of aquifer can be highly variable during the year because they depend on pressure in addition to the amount of water in the aquifer. During the summer, especially if many high capacity wells are running at the same time, this can cause large pressure drops in the aquifer and corresponding declines in the static water level.  On a positive note, at the end of the irrigation season the pressure in the aquifers starts to return to normalxx and usually by November wells are able to operate as they did before.  

However, both SQS regions were hit hard by drought conditions in 2012 and 2013.  In a typical year, the district might receive 1 or 2 complaints about domestic wells going dry (if any); in 2012, we received more than 3 dozen, with the majority coming from land now located in one of the SQSs.

The district’s dedicated monitoring wells take water level readings every few hours. Looking at the data for the SQS areas for 2012-2013, a concerning trend became clear. During mid-summer water levels were dropping much lower than normal, even for confined aquifers like the ones in the SQS areas. 

Based on this data, the NRD made the decision to create the Special Quantity Subareas to help prevent large mid-summer declines and the resulting water shortages to area wells. Within the SQSs, no new or expanded irrigated acres are allowed, flow meters will be required on irrigation wells beginning in 2015, and acre-inch allocations will be put in place for irrigation (allocation amounts are yet to be determined).

Grass Drill Rentals Available

The NRD has three grass drills available for rental to landowners for planting native grasses, grains and legumes. The drills are Great Plains No-Till drills with three different seed boxes capable of planting fluffy native grass seed, small seed like alfalfa & clovers, or coarser grain-type seed.

Rental rates are $10/acre plus a $25/day charge, with a minimum charge of $75. To inquire about drill rental, contact one of our local cooperators:

Platte County Area
Gary Mueller, (402) 564-6364

Colfax/Northern Butler County Area
Schuyler Co-op, (402) 352-2554

Saunders/Eastern Butler/Northern Lancaster County Area
Dave Rezac Seed, (402) 784-3875

Our drill renters can help potential customers set the drill for the appropriate grass mixtures at the time of rental. If you have other questions, contact Operations & Maintenance Manager Bob Heimann at (402) 443-4675 or bheimann@lpnnrd.org.

The NRD's grass drills were purchased with grant funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The NRD thanks the Trust for their continued support.

 

Special Quantity Subarea Rules & Regulations

  • New and expanded irrigated acres will not be allowed.
  • Acre-inch allocations will apply for irrigation (amount to be determined)
  • Existing irrigated acres must be certified with the NRD by May 15 of this year.
  • Beginning in 2015, flow meters will be required on all irrigation wells
  • Depth requirements for new domestic and livestock wells will apply to avoid well interference issues.

Get in the Green!

Order Trees Today

The Lower Platte North NRD offers more than 40 varieties of conservation trees and shrubs for sale to anyone living in the district. Time is running out, so order soon to be sure you get the species you want this spring.

Trees are sold as handplants (planted by the purchaser) or machine plants (planted by the NRD). Seedlings are two years old and approximately 12” to 18” tall. The majority of our stock comes from the Nebraska Forest Service’s Bessey Nursery near Halsey.

You can place your order online, or call (402) 443-4675.

Crossing the Finish Line

Wanahoo Upstream Dams Completed, Highway 77 Bypass Underway

 
The finish line is in sight! Sponsors of the Lake Wanahoo/Sand Creek Environmental Project crossed two more items off the “to-do” list in 2013, with only one left to go. 

Two final watershed dams upstream of Lake Wanahoo were finished in fall 2013,  joining five other smaller dams constructed in 2011 and 2012. 

These seven upstream dams, ranging in size from 12-45 acres, help trap sediment and nutrients before they reach Lake Wanahoo one mile north of Wahoo. This will help preserve  water quality and extend the life of the lake. The upstream structures are also creating new wetland areas to help offset wetland losses that have occured in Todd Valley over the years. 

Unlike Lake Wanahoo, the upstream dams don’t include a recreation component and aren’t open to the public.

Work began last fall on the final piece of the project - the Highway 77 Bypass. The bypass will swing west and north of Wahoo before crossing the Lake Wanahoo dam and linking to the existing Highway 77/109 junction one mile north of town.

The Nebraska Department of Roads began preliminary construction last fall  with bridge work, culvert placement and grading. Construction will continue through 2014 and should be completed by May 2015. The former County Road M over the dam will be open during the 2014 camping season (mid-May to the end of Auust), and signs will be put up to direct visitors to the lake at other times.

Protecting the Future

Work Begins on Schuyler Levees

Construction is underway on a levee project to reduce flooding in the city of Schuyler.

The Lower Platte North NRD and  Schuyler are the local partners in the project, which involves a 21/2 mile levee along a stretch near Shell Creek north and east of Schuyler. The Federal sponsor is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Preliminary construction begin last November, and focused on site clearing and preparation. Major construction will begin this spring and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

Project construction and land rights costs will be approximately $3.9 million, with 65% ($2.54 million) coming from the Corps and the remainder ($1.37 million) from the local partners.

Copyright © 2014 Lower Platte North NRD, All rights reserved.
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