SPNRD Board Receives Information On Ground Water Alternative For Development

SPNRD Board Receives Information On Ground Water Alternative For Development


Members of a team planning a new housing development on the east side of Sidney met with the South Platte Natural Resources District (SPNRD) board of directors this week to outline the development plan and how it could affect local water resources.

Team members from Wright Water Engineers, Inc. led the presentation, joined by officials from Cabela's, which owns the development, and legal counsel.

The development project, known as "The Ranch," proposes to add approximately 750 single-family homes to Sidney by 2023. The team approached the SPNRD Board specifically to present an alternative proposal to normal procedures when urban development grows into agricultural areas.

Under state law, when towns and cities grow into areas where irrigation is present, ground water irrigation wells are decommissioned and the ground water use is retired and "banked" by the local natural resources district to offset (or go toward making up) the additional municipal use when needed.

With The Ranch, the developers plan to ask for a variance, or exception, to provisions in the District's Ground Water Management Area Rules and Regulations, which is allowed by the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act. With the variance, the group is expected to ask that rather than completely retire the ground water use, it be allowed to transfer the use from agricultural to industrial and use a portion of that water for use within the development. The group said it is likely that over the length of the project, two of the four irrigation wells in that area, which lies between Fort Sidney Road and Link 17J, would be retired.

According to the presentation, uses of the remaining ground water would include irrigation of common areas and an open water feature. That feature, a 10-acre pond, would be used as an irrigation reservoir as well as a centerpiece for fishing and other public access activities.

In making its presentation, the group said allowing the transfer of use would result in lower consumptive water use (the amount used by crops or plants) by the development than if it remained in crop ground. Allowing the industrial use, they said, would result in a lower risk of the city's municipal baseline (water use total allowed) having to be offset by the SPNRD. (If a town/city goes above its baseline amount, established by use between 2001 and 2006, the NRD has to take measures to offset the additional use.)

Other project benefits outlined included the promotion of water conservation through water saving landscaping and limited turf areas; reduction of pollution associated with storm water, with the creation of bioswales and treatment basins; reduction of damaging flood flows, with vegetated corridors to slow runoff; the creation of riparian and aquatic habitat areas; and the reduction of soil erosion, with the development and maintenance of vegetation coverage.

The group is currently working on its variance request for the transfer of use, and may present it for the Board at its March meeting.

With the request and information in hand, the board can approve the variance and transfer, absorb the ground water offset as provided under state law, or make other choices.

"The board was impressed by the Cabela's Group presentation," said Don Ogle, the SPNRD information and education coordinator. "The plan was well thought out, and covered many of the interests and responsibilities the directors have to the District."

Ogle said the directors will be weighing a number of factors in making their decision, including the overall protection of ground water availability in the area, and how the project affects the community and District as a whole economically. The board will want to ensure compliance with the District's responsibilities and regulations, prevent adverse affects on other water users, and protect the public interest and prevent detriment to public welfare.

The South Platte NRD protects lives, property and the future of the area through a wide range of stewardship, management and education programs - from flood control to groundwater monitoring, irrigation management, soil conservation and more. Activities and projects of the South Platte NRD are reviewed and approved by a locally elected board of directors. For more information, visit or call 308-254-2377.