Lewis and Clark NRD – 2021 Year In Review

Lewis and Clark NRD – 2021 Year In Review


HARTINGTON, Nebraska -- In 2021, the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District (LCNRD) board of directors continued to implement conservation practices, projects and services in Northeast Nebraska. 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; Chris Johnson, Bloomfield; Dave Condon, Creighton; Bill Christensen and Gary Howey, Hartington; Matt Weinandt, Wynot; Curtis Armstrong, Ponca; and Leroy Hoesing, Newcastle.  

LCNRD provided cost share to district landowners and operators through several local, state, and federal programs to financially assist in implementing conservation practices.  Contracts in 2021 were funded to protect land and water resources which included: grass seedings, planned grazing systems, irrigation management, brush management, windbreak renovations, well sealing and tree plantings. Assistance contracts for Best Management Practices (BMP) were approved in the Bazile Groundwater Management Area and the Bow Creek Watershed to address water quality concerns.  Technical assistance for many of the programs offered by LCNRD is provided by conservation partners, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Nebraska Forestry (NFS), and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC).

LCNRD has been awarded over $550,000 in grant funds to address surface water quality impairments including E.coli, sedimentation and nutrients in the Bow Creek Watershed. to be used over the next 2 to 3 years from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) and the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET). These funds are being used to assist Bow Creek Watershed producers in implementing best management practices on cropland and rangeland that have proven to be effective in decreasing impacts from impairments. Working in conjunction with NRCS, NET, and NDEE the Bow Creek Watershed Project offers incentive payments for practices that 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 is the project coordinator and has spearheaded conservation and educational opportunities in the watershed. Ravenkamp also partnered with Dr. Andrea Basche, UNL and the senior level agriculture class who meet with 4 producers from the watershed, Tom Wiebelhaus, Fordyce, Taylor Schumacher, Crofton, Claude Pinkelman and Matt Weinandt, Wynot to develop farm plans with the producers that have the potential to improve farm profitability and Bow Creek water quality.

Groundwater 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), near Creighton, 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 educational programs and the implementation of rules and regulations drafted to address contamination where nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are nearing or exceeding the federal Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 parts per million.

Groundwater 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 2021 and resulted average water levels lower than the fall of 2020. Dry conditions going into the 2022 crop season could result in further reduced water levels that could trigger conservation mechanisms to be implemented. Groundwater conservation is important to the overall health of district aquifers. 

Natural resources education is a priority of the directors and staff. In 2021, LCNRD co-sponsored the 32nd 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 day long 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 Week is sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) which also sponsors a youth poster contest. This year’s state winner, in the 4th – 6th grade division, was Colton Heimes, Wynot Public Schools. LCNRD offered free nitrate-nitrogen and bacteria testing of water and seedling trees to school students in recognition of Arbor Day.

The Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District is dedicated to protecting the lives, property, and future of Northeast Nebraskans.