February 14, 2016

Survey of Nebraska wells shows groundwater levels are changing

(from the 2015 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report)

Groundwater levels are recovering after the 2012-2013 drought, according to the Nebraska Geological Survey’s Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report.

Measurements taken from Spring 2014 to Spring 2015 shows an average rise of a little more than six inches.

Aaron Young, survey geologist, says that is still far from making up for the recent drought.

“We’re rebounding from the drought that we experienced in 2012, where we saw one year declines of ten to 15 to 20 feet in some areas,” Young says. “We’re just coming back from those after a few wet seasons.”

Young says the next round of monitoring will include the heavy rains last May, which should have a positive impact.

“Some of the areas where that water sat there for quite a while, may see some pretty substantial groundwater level rises,” Young says. “Other areas, there definitely will be rises, but it’s difficult to say at this point how big those rises are going to be.”

This year’s monitoring will take place from late-March through April.

Supreme Court halts EPA until lawsuit joined by Nebraska is decided

Sheldon_Power_PlantAn ambitious plan to curb carbon emissions proposed by President Barack Obama and opposed by more than two dozen states, including Nebraska, has been put on hold by the United States Supreme Court.

The court has not ruled on the merits of the plan by the Environmental Protection Agency, but has prevented the EPA from putting its plan into place until legal issues are resolved.

The states involved in the lawsuit contend the EPA has overstepped its Congressional authority in issuing orders that states submit plans to shift away from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy; what many regard as a direct aim at coal-fired power plants that many in the Midwest, including Nebraska, rely upon.

President Obama’s press secretary issued a statement:

“We disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds. The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives States the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change. We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits. Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need. At the same time, the Administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson praised the decision.

“In the state of Nebraska, our public power entities have been proactive in recent years in developing ways to reduce carbon emissions, including developing several alternative, renewable energy sources. The EPA’s Rule change would disregard these efforts and exceeds reasonable standards,” Peterson said in a written statement released by his office.

Gov. Pete Ricketts also applauded the ruling.

“The decision by the Supreme Court to halt the implementation of the Clean Power Plan until a legal settlement is reached is important for Nebraska industry and ratepayers to prevent rate increases. I applaud Attorney General Doug Peterson’s continued work to defend Nebraska against EPA overreach,” the governor said in a written statement released by his office.

Fairbury company pays $145K fine to EPA

logo_epaseal-aara[1]A Fairbury, Nebraska firm has agreed to pay a fine of $145,000 after the Environmental Protection Agency found it violated federal law through unauthorized discharges into Brawner Creek.

According to the Region 7 office of the EPA, Loveland Products exceeded its industrial storm water permit discharge limits for cadmium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc into Brawner Creek. An EPA inspection in September of 2014 discovered the violations under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA says Loveland also failed to analyze the pH levels of its discharges within the required timeframe, and update its Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

Loveland has agreed to pay the fine and work toward becoming a zero-discharge facility. Loveland is a seed treatment, plant nutrition, and fertilizer company.

From near extinction to recovery, bald eagles are growing in Nebraska

An adult bald eagle on its nest in Cherry County. (photo by Lauren Dinan, courtesy Nebraska Game & Parks Commission)

An adult bald eagle on its nest in Cherry County. (photo by Lauren Dinan from Nebraska Game & Parks Commission)

Bald eagles continue to make a dramatic comeback in Nebraska, according to the state Game and Parks Commission.

Joel Jorgensen, nongame bird program manager, says they counted a record high 118 active nest last year.

“Thirty, forty years back, it was thought that a good number of nesting bald eagles in the state of Nebraska would be ten breeding pairs,” Jorgensen says. “That was the number identified by the federal recovery plan at the time, and I don’t think anybody really anticipated that we’d see over 100 bald eagle nests in the state of Nebraska.”

Jorgensen expects the bald eagle population will continue to grow around the state, saying the 118 counted nests is likely a little short of the actual number.

“They’ve had a chance to bounce back from, first, being hunted quite a bit in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, and then just as bald eagles were recovering from that, they were slammed by (the pesticide) DDT,” Jorgensen says. “With protections from laws such as the Endangered Species Act, they’ve finally started to recover. This is really the fruit of those efforts.”

Jorgensen says Nebraska bald eagle pairs have produced, on average, 1.7 eagles per year.

Hunters can help control the spread of a deer disease


white_tailed_deer_0820[1]The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports chronic wasting disease is spreading through the deer population.

Samples tested during hunting season last fall turned up three positive cases in the Northeast District.

Scott Taylor, wildlife division administrator, says periodic testing shows the disease is moving east.

“In the long term – decades out – it can have some serious effects on deer populations,” Taylor says, “but likely in the short term were not going to see much in terms of population reductions, for example, due to the disease, but it’s something we want to keep our eye on in the long term and be prepared to respond to, if we need to.”

Taylor says hunters can help control the disease by properly disposing of deer remains, preferably in a landfill.

“If possible, we’d prefer that people not move carcasses from one area to the other,” he says. “If they want to butcher an animal, we recommend that they do it where they shot the deer.”

Taylor says chronic wasting disease only affects deer and elk populations. It was first confirmed in Nebraska in 2000, but was present in Colorado and Wyoming decades earlier.

You can learn more about chronic wasting disease HERE.