November 30, 2015

Dep’t of Roads heads back to drawing board with Highway 12 project

Neb. Dept of Roads logoThe Nebraska Department of Roads is withdrawing its permit application to rebuild a section of Highway 12, both east and west of Niobrara. DOR engineer Kevin Domogalla says the public doesn’t support the plan.

Domogalla says, “From the comments we received at the Corps’ public hearing, we decided we need to seek an alternate solution from what the permit application was made.”

The alternative would shift the existing highway south, within the Missouri River Valley, to a location along the earthen bluff. The project would reconstruct about a dozen miles of existing Highway 12 east and west of Niobrara and raise the highway elevation to provide a permanent transportation solution and protect it against future flooding. Domogalla says there was no support to move the highway to the bluff location.

“The public asked for something closer to the existing alignment that we’ll have to work through with the Corps to find what we can get that will provide a sustainable highway and also be permitable,” he says.

Domogalla says it’s a tough location to route a highway.

“The area up there, the geology and the wetlands both offer certain challenges to get a project that will work for both us and the environment,” he says.

The rising waters of Lewis & Clark Lake have forced the road to be rebuilt several times. Domogalla says they will work with the Corps of Engineers to find an alternative solution along existing Highway 12 that would solve the problem of reoccurring flooding.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


NPPD customers will see stable power bills in 2016

NPPD's Cooper Nuclear Station

NPPD’s Cooper Nuclear Station

Retail electric customers of Nebraska Public Power District have reason to be thankful. There will be no overall retail rate increase for residential or business customers for at least another year, according to NPPD spokesman Clint Przymus.

“It’s the third year in a row that we’ve been able to hold our costs down and offer a zero rate increase for our retail customers,” Przymus says. “That’s accomplished through a number of different ways, a lot effective cost control by our employees, we put in some great cost-cutting measures, and also a great use of technology to create some efficiencies.”

Przymus says it’s not just coal power that keeps prices low, but that’s part of it.

“We’re very fortunate at NPPD to have a very diverse generation mix of coal and natural gas and wind and hydro and nuclear,” Przymus says. “One of the benefits of that is that we’re prepared to deal with the different market fluctuations as they come. That’s certainly something that is a benefit to us.”

Pryzymus says the combination of multiple types of power generating plants helps to keep rates stable.

“We certainly don’t put all of our eggs in one basket,” he says. “Living where we do, coal is very low cost and we have our share of that. Nuclear is a carbon-free source of energy and we have a good supply of that as well. Also, we’re continuing to expand our renewable generation with wind and we have a significant amount of hydro facilities as well.”

Przymus says Nebraska is also blessed with a variety of great natural resources. NPPD serves about 600,000 customers statewide in 87 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Help requested in search for who killed 25 antelope in Nebraska Panhandle

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is investigating the illegal killing of 25 antelope in Morrill County/Photo courtesy of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is investigating the illegal killing of 25 antelope in Morrill County/Photo courtesy of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The public is being asked to help in the investigation of the illegal shooting of 25 antelope in the Panhandle.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports the antelope where shot and killed near Broadwater in Morrill County.

Nebraska conservation officers responded to a call during the week of November 12th that dead antelope were lying in a winter wheat field northeast of Broadwater. Conservationists discovered 25 adult and fawn antelope that had been shot and left in the field. Some of the animals had been drug off the field and hidden in tall grass.

“Individuals involved with this crime have blatant disregard for wildlife and wildlife laws,” said Sean McKeehan, a conservation officer investigating the case, in a written statement released by Game and Parks.

If you have information, call Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers at 1-800-742-7627 or call Conservation Officers McKeehan at 308-279-9133 or Jim Zimmerman at 308-641-6138. Callers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward. Wildlife Crimestoppers will pay up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individuals involved in the case.

Presence of whooping cranes closes Father Hupp Wildlife Management Area

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Nebraska

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Nebraska

Father Hupp Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Nebraska has been temporarily closed to protect six endangered whooping cranes.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission closed the park located about two miles west of Bruning in Thayer County.

Once the cranes leave, the area will re-open.

Game and Parks says it is following standard procedure once whooping crane sightings are confirmed.

“We value the outdoor opportunities our properties provide to hunters and other recreationists, but our WMAs also provide valuable habitat to an array of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species,” said Scott Taylor, the Commission’s wildlife division administrator, in a written statement released by Game and Parks. “This temporary closure is intended to not only protect whooping cranes, but to also protect the public from accidentally disturbing or harming the birds, which is illegal under federal and state law.”

The total population of whooping cranes is estimated to be only about 300.

Whooping cranes migrate through Nebraska each spring and fall, flying between their wintering sites in Texas and their breeding areas in northern Alberta, Canada.

Whooping cranes are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Penalties for killing, possessing, or harassing whooping cranes or other species protected under these laws may include fines of up to $50,000, up to year in jail, or both.

Nebraska receiving $2.4M to help preserve Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala Aquifer/USDA map

Ogallala Aquifer/USDA map

Nebraska will receive a large chunk of federal money going to help preserve the Ogallala Aquifer.

The United States Department of Agriculture will spend eight million dollars to reduce use of the aquifer, improve its water quality, and enhance the economic viability of the agricultural land it waters. The money comes through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Nebraska State Conservationist Craig Derickson says efforts in Nebraska will concentrate on the Central Platte, Little Blue, the Middle Republican, and Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Districts.

The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest aquifer in the United States, running underneath most of Nebraska and spreading to parts of seven other states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It covers 174,000 square miles and is the primary water source for the High Plains region.

Derickson says the initiative in Nebraska will concentrate on reducing the amount of the Ogallala used for irrigation.

Nebraska projects/USDA map

Nebraska projects/USDA map

“Irrigation out of the Ogallala represents about a third of all of the water pumped for irrigation in the United,” Derickson tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WNAX. “So, it’s a very significant and valuable resource for us.”

Derickson calls the Ogallala a significant and valuable resource for Nebraska.

The USDA initiative will concentrate on using less water from the Ogallala for irrigation, but it also will fund projects to plant cover crops and use no-till to enhance soil health, allowing soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from high temperatures. Prescribed grazing can be used to relieve pressure on stressed pastures. Other projects hope to reduce the need for irrigation from the Ogallala.

Jerry Oster, WNAX, contributed to this report.