Cover Crop Impact Study Shows Minimal Impact on Groundwater Availability
Dan Bigbee, EA Engineering, presented a progress report on the four-year Cover Crop Impact Study to the Central Platte Natural Resources District’s Board of Directors on Thursday. The study began in August 2019 to research impacts on groundwater from cover crops.
The study compared irrigated and dryland cropped fields, targeting southern Buffalo County where the Lower Loup and Central Platte NRDs have experienced localized groundwater declines. The Lower Loup Basin and Central Platte River Basin have diverse soil types and cropping practices that affect both water quantity and quality. The study is researching the general influence of cover crops on soil moisture, groundwater recharge and Nitrogen movement in the soil between the South Loup River and Wood River.
Bigbee said so far, the study has shown that there is minimal seasonal impact of groundwater availability on the fields that implement cover crops compared to non-cover crop fields. He said nitrate sampling will begin this fall to compare groundwater contamination on cover crop and non-cover crop fields. The study will continue through June of 2023.
-2022 Budget The board approved the 2022 fiscal budget of expenditures as advertised. Lyndon Vogt, General Manager, said the budget is down slightly from 2021. Total requirements for the general fund and sinking fund are $24,584,382.92. Based on the balances on hand, and estimated revenue, the required property tax would be $3,983,622.69 which would be a decrease of $73,396.65 from last year.
Vogt said there may be a slight increase in the district’s total valuation; however, based on last year’s valuations, the levy for FY 2021/2022 is estimated to be 0.022566 compared to last year’s levy of 0.022965. Since the valuations aren’t received from the 11 county assessors until August 20th, the levy hearing will be held at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, September 2, 2021, to allow for public notice requirements.
-Managers Report Lyndon Vogt, General Manager, gave updates on the following:
Legislative Update: Speaker Mike Hilgers sent a notice to the legislative body notifying them there will be a special legislative session between September 13- 30 as required for redistricting regarding new census numbers. The information is due to the Secretary of State prior to October 1, which is when it will be available to the counties and local government agencies. The new census data will result in CPNRD having to redistrict, staff plans to process the changes in-house. The new boundaries will be used in the 2022 election process.
New Staff: Three individuals were interviewed for the Precision Conservation Management Specialist position. The position is funded 100% through a RCPP grant received by the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA). Training will be provided by ICGA. The individual selected will start employment in late August.
Office Building/Educational Center: CPNRD will be requesting that funds received for the Upper Prairie Silver/Moores Creek Flood Reduction Project (PSM) be redirected to assist with an Educational Center at the site during the August Water Sustainability Fund meeting. If the request is granted, detailed costs and designs will be provided to the board to decide whether to proceed with a building complex at the PSM site.
Platte Republican Diversion: A hearing on the Platte Republican Diversion was held on July 19th in Lincoln to brief the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the issue of standing for all the parties involved. It will be decided in the next couple of months by DNR who has or does not have standing to participate in the process of being heard by DNR as they consider action on the permit before them.
Cease and Desist Update: Tricia Dudley, Water Quality Specialist, reported that six landowners remain in violation of the cease and desist orders filed. Those landowners include Michael Kelliher, Kearney; Kurt Kuhn, Clarks; Mark Lesiak, Clarks; Mike Munsterman, Glenville; William Soll, Columbus; Richard Urban, Silver Creek. Three of the landowners are repeat offenders from 2020.
-Natural Resources Conservation Service Joe Krolikowski, District Conservationist, reported on that NRCS is processing applications received for the Nebraska Soil Carbon Project funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The Nature Conservancy is the lead partner of the project, partners include NRCS, Central Platte NRD, Upper Big Blue NRD, Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), Cargill, Target and McDonald’s.
The goal is to enroll producers to install soil health practices on central Nebraska cropland fields over the next five years by providing cost-share for cover crops, no till and/or diversified crop rotations. Their soils will be evaluated for both carbon and water quality benefits and then quantified showing the results before and after implementing any of these conservation practices.
The application process included completion of applicant and land eligibility determinations, conservation planning with the applicant, cost estimates, assessments and ranking. Krolikowski said contract obligations will be completed by September 30th for the highest ranked applications preapproved for funding. The national NRCS office is planning to release new contracting software and will provide training to local offices to develop the RCPP contracts. CPNRD received 17 applications and UBBNRD received 20 applications totaling $2,207,635 in requests. Approximately $309,365 is available to implement practices in each NRD.
Janelle Taubenheim, Resource Conservationist, gave updates for the Lexington and Kearney field offices. Taubenheim said the Lexington office had 19 EQIP contracts funded with 21 applications remaining. Practices funded were prescribed burn plans, range, irrigation water management, dryland, soil erosion-terrace and cover crops. She reported there were six CSP contracts funded and 24 applications remaining. Dawson County had seven RCPP –carbon credit program applications funded to plant cover crops and up to seven applications being processed for CPNRD cost-share funds. Taubenheim is also assisting with an animal feeding operation and nutrient management application in Dawson County. The participant wants to expand to increase to a 5,000 head feedlot while meeting Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy regulations.
The Kearney office had eight EQIP contracts funded with 19 applications remaining. Practices funded were irrigation water management, subsurface drip irrigation and cover crops. Buffalo County had seven RCPP –carbon credit program applications funded to plant cover crops and applications are being processed for CPNRD and Lower Loup NRD cost-share funds.
-Cost-Share The board approved 17 applications for planned grazing, underground pipe, center pivot incentive, flow meters and well decommissioning through the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation and the Central Platte NRD cost-share programs in the amount of $97,567.75.
-Staff Presentations Brandi Flyr, Hydrologist, and Tricia Dudley, Water Quality Specialist, gave presentations on their staff responsibilities.
-Upcoming Board Meetings September 2 (August meeting), September 23, October 28