03/28 - WRAP meets at Ferguson House

By: Steve Ress

The University of Nebraska’s Water Resources Advisory Panel, or WRAP, met at Lincoln’s historic Ferguson House, just east of the State Capital, in early March.

It was an opportunity for members to catch up on the many happenings in the realm of water at the University, within state agencies, and in the current session of the state legislature.

Ron Yoder, associate vice chancellor of the University’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, reviewed university plans for dealing with ongoing budget adjustments within the university but was quick to point out that water research projects, programming and teaching have been able to continue largely untouched by the threat of cuts. “It’s not all doom and gloom. We have been able to continue doing what we need to do,” he said. 

What and where IANR will need to make cuts depends on how deep cuts in state funding assistance to the University turn out to be, he said.

Nebraska Water Center director Chittaranjan Ray reported on a number of upcoming projects, including the June 5-6 revival of the Platte River Basin Ecosystem Symposium by the Crane Trust and the June 26-29 water and natural resources tour, that will visit the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s North Platte and Kendrick irrigation projects.

Ray also mentioned that the NWC will host a nine-state Great Plains regional water symposium at Nebraska Innovation Campus Oct. 24-26 in coordination with the water centers and USGS water sciences centers in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The NWC is working with the Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Niobrara and Lewis and Clark Natural Resources Districts toward funding for a coordinator and for developing additional extension and demonstration projects in conjunction with local producers to reduce nitrate impacts to groundwater in Northeast Nebraska.

Peter McCornick, executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, said DWFI will soon be publishing a water productivity atlas. He also caught panelists up on recent collaborative travels internationally including an upcoming conference in Brasilia, Brazil.

Jeff Fassett, director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, told the group that much like the University, DNR is negotiating state budgeting issues. He noted that DNR already has a number of vacant positions, due in part to a booming commercial economy that can currently afford to pay better than the state.

He noted recent successes in the Republican River Basin in settling lingering disputes with neighboring Colorado and said there are currently no water-related lawsuits involving the state anywhere in Nebraska.
“The water factions in Nebraska have become far better at talking amongst themselves to find solutions to issues than 15 or 20 years ago,” Fassett said.

After additional comments from other members of the WRAP, assistant extension educator Brian Krienke of UNL’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture gave a presentation on state-of-the-art “Sensor based nitrogen management: current nitrogen management methods that can increase nitrogen use efficiency.