Water, water everywhere — Upper Big Blue NRD board tours district projects

YORK — From monitoring wells to recreation areas, dam sites, and a water treatment plant, members of the board of directors for the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District viewed a variety of water related projects on their annual district tour, held on August 25. Each year, directors tour a different quadrant of the district to view completed projects or sites for proposed improvements. This tour is a vital educational event for directors, who might not regularly have a reason to visit parts of the district beyond the borders of their sub-district.
The event was attended by seven directors and a handful of NRD staff, as well as Senator Bruce Bostelman and Matt Howe, a representative from the office of Senator Jana Hughes. The day afforded opportunities for local and state elected officials to discuss the natural resource challenges facing the people of the district, including the problem of nitrate in drinking water supplies.
“We appreciate the investment of time and attention from the directors and other local leadership that were a part of this tour,” said General Manager David Eigenberg. “The NRD and state representatives can’t appropriately steward our natural resources without opportunities to learn about the issues and projects that affect them. We are grateful to all who made the day a success.”
The first stop was a demonstration of sampling of monitoring wells located at the Fairmont Airpark. The monitoring wells at the location are tested regularly for nitrates and other contaminants. These wells are part of a network of 20 monitoring wells spread across nine sites in the district which are routinely sampled to track water quality trends over time. The wells vary in depth, allowing for data collection from shallow, medium, and deep sites to capture a more accurate picture of the quality of the district’s groundwater. The Upper Big Blue NRD has been tracking this data consistently since 1997 to look at trends in non-point source contamination in the groundwater supply. There are plans to expand the monitoring well network to include more sites soon.
Geneva was the next tour stop, where the group viewed improvements to Boys Pond, the community walking trail, and a nearby tree planting site. The Upper Big Blue NRD has been involved in several community enhancements in Geneva in the last few years.
The tour then continued on to Lone Star Recreation Area, which is operated by the Little Blue NRD. Though the stop is outside of the district, it was an opportunity for directors to see how a different NRD manages recreation facilities. The lake at Lone Star covers approximately 75-acre feet, roughly twice the size of any of the lakes managed by the Upper Big Blue NRD. The recreation area also features 19 camper pads and is a popular spot for camping throughout the season.
After lunch, the group visited dam sites in Dorchester and Seward. The Dorchester dam is on private property but is owned and maintained by the NRD. The structure provides valuable flood control as well as wildlife benefits. In the past year, the dam face was reinforced with rock to prevent further erosion of the aging structure, for a total cost to the district of $22,822.96.
The Seward site featured construction on a large dam structure, which will provide recreation opportunities at a privately owned campground facility under development near the I-80 exchange. The district’s private dams program offers a 75 percent cost-share (up to $50,000) for the design and construction of dams that will meet a number of the required resource concerns, including flood control, sediment and erosion control, water conservation, groundwater recharge, and fish and wildlife enhancement.
The group then toured the reverse osmosis water treatment facility in Seward. The almost 20-year-old facility remediates high nitrates in the community’s drinking water. The plant treats up to 1.4 million gallons of water per day and serves approximately 7,100 residents. In 2017, the NRD provided $37,475 to the City of Seward through the municipal assistance program to replace the filter membranes in the system. The total cost to replace the membranes was $135,000. There are plans to expand and update the facility in the future.
The NRD board of directors will meet next on Thursday, September 21 for a public tax request hearing followed by their regular monthly meeting. The agenda for the meeting will be available on the website in the week prior to the meeting. All meetings are open to the public.

 

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