Lower Elkhorn NRD staff recommends no new irrigated acres or wells for 2014

NORFOLK - As Northeast Nebraska struggles to come out of the drought, staff and board members for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District are being forced to make some difficult decisions.  The Information, Planning and Programs Subcommittee for the NRD’s Board of Directors held a public hearing Thursday night at Northeast Community College’s Lifelong Learning Center.  NRD General Manager, Stan Staab says the sole purpose was to discuss irrigation for 2014.  The NRD’s board implemented a “no new irrigated acres and no new wells” policy for 2013, and the NRD staff is recommending the same policy for 2014.  In a presentation before audience testimony, the NRD’s Water Resource Manager, Rick Wozniak said this spring, that 18 percent of wells had all-time low water levels, while 66 percent had their greatest one-year declines since 1976.  Wozniak also pointed out that most neighboring NRDs have also chosen not to allow for new irrigated acres or wells.  Several irrigators in the crowd of about 120 addressed the committee, with most asking for members to consider making exceptions to the policy.  The subcommittee will consider last night’s testimony as well as the staff’s recommendation when it makes its recommendation to entire board, which is set to meet Thursday, September 26th.