10/16 - WRAP meets ahead of October law conference

By: Steve Ress

The University of Nebraska’s Water Resources Advisory Panel (WRAP) met for breakfast and discussions on October 21 at Nebraska Innovation Campus, just before that day’s Nebraska Water Law Conference.

Jim Macy of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality commented that the department is anxious to strengthen its engagement with UNL through its “Grow Nebraska” initiative.

Nebraska Water Center (NWC) director Chittaranjan Ray updated the panel on research activities, including work funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and NU’s role in the ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture/NIFA Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer sustainability study being conducted in cooperation with colleagues from Colorado State University and other institutions. He also updated the group on progress on vadose zone nitrate and pesticide studies being conducted in the Hastings area in conjunction with the Water Sciences Laboratory, which is part of the NWC.

Jeff Fassett, director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, said DNR is at or near the tipping point on many state water issues and that they would continue looking to UNL for more help wherever possible.  

WRAP member Bob Bettger echoed those comments, noting there are many places UNL can get more involved in areas of agriculture and water economics, soil erosion and water quality issues, especially the economics of conservation measures.

Bettger said Iowa studies have indicated that state’s economy is losing as much as $1 billion per year due to soil losses from erosion.

Later, UNL irrigation engineer Derrel Martin said one of the challenges with UNL helping to solve these and other issues lies in how best to connect new faculty members and their areas of expertise with the needs of the state.

Lee Orton, of the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, mentioned the hiring of new Nebraska Extension educator Meghan Sittler who is now working statewide from the Lancaster County office on domestic water and wastewater management. Sittler formerly coordinated the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance.

Mark Brohman of the Nebraska Environmental Trust said the trust has received $68 million in requests for funding assistance for a record $19.5 million in available trust funds.

Jerry Kenny of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program updated the group on a number of Platte River items, including that there will be an extension of the first increment’s water goals, a possible inter-basin transfer of water project at Turkey Creek, and said there was currently a good deal of research and monitoring activity going on in the basin.

Interim NU vice president and vice chancellor of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Ron Yoder reported that an announcement would likely soon be coming on who the next vice president and vice chancellor would be.

Steve Ress of the Nebraska Water Center reported that the next water and natural resources tour would be in the central Platte River basin June 27-29, 2017.