Pollinator Safety Corners: Papio NRD Program Making Rural Intersections Safer

When corn is high, four-way intersections in rural counties can become dangerous. Tall crops often obstruct the line-of-sight needed at these intersections. The Papio NRD, along with Pheasants Forever, The Nebraska Environmental Trust, and Nebraska Game & Parks offer a cost-share program to improve safety while also providing a benefit to the ecosystem.

A Pollinator Safety Corner in Washington County on year two of its contract.
Photo courtesy of Armando Zarco.

The Pollinator Safety Corners Program allows landowners to take one to three acres at a four-way rural intersection out of crop production and seeded into a mix of short, native grasses or pollinator habitat. Landowners receive 75% cost-share on seed mix. In addition, the program provides an annual payment of $250/acre for 5 years. Landowners within the 319 Papillion Creek Watershed receive $350/acre annually. Some participants even choose to install bee boxes on their safety corners.

With your participation, we can make these intersections safer for our communities and beneficial for pollinators. Contact Kalani Fortina in the Blair office at (402) 426-4782 ext. 101 or Kalani.Fortina@usda.gov for more information.

Papio NRD Board Decreases Property Tax Levy

Contact: Jennifer Stauss Story
Cell Phone 402-960-5329

Papio NRD Board Approves Proposed 2024 Budget

Decreases Property Tax Levy 


Omaha, NE: At its September 14th meeting, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (Papio NRD) Board of Directors voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2024 general operating budget that includes a significant decrease in the Papio NRD property tax levy.

“After the first budget draft was discussed, I directed Papio NRD staff to find as many efficiencies as possible in the District’s general operations and vital programs to ensure the Papio NRD is only requesting the bare minimum from taxpayers without sacrificing our mission of protecting life and property,” said Kevyn Sopinski, chairman of the Papio NRD Board of Directors.

For 18 out of 19 years, the Papio NRD has either decreased or kept the property tax levy the same. This fiscal year’s total tax request is 1.8% above last year’s budget. The District will drop its property tax mill levy by 10% this fiscal year.

“We understand that historically high inflation and even higher county property valuation assessments are negatively impacting many of our constituents’ finances,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD. “Through methodical and conservative financial and operational management, refinancing and reduction of bonded debt, and securing over $20 million in grant funding, this budget allows the Papio NRD to lower its property tax levy to its lowest in over 20 years while simultaneously funding critical public safety projects,” said Winkler.

The Papio NRD’s FY24 property tax levy would drop to .031 per $100 of assessed valuation from the District’s FY23 property tax levy of 0.347 per $100 of assessed valuation. Under this budget, a homeowner in the District with property valued at $150,000 would pay $46.95 a year or $3.91 a month in property taxes next year to support Papio NRD projects, programs, and services. The budget calls for an estimated $30 million in revenue from the Papio NRD’s property tax levy. The total operating budget is estimated at $90.3 million.

Winkler said the Papio NRD’s budgeting philosophy is to only levy what is needed to adequately fund essential projects related to flood mitigation, conservation, erosion and sediment control, as well as the responsible management of Nebraska’s invaluable natural resources.

The property tax levy is based on an estimated 12.9% increase in valuations across the District, which includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington, and Dakota counties, plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston counties.

The Papio NRD receives less than 2% of all property taxes collected within the District’s six-county area. The remaining 98% goes to schools, cities, counties, and other taxing entities.






Water Conservation Encouraged Due to Drought Conditions

Below normal precipitation and warmer than normal temperatures continue to affect streamflow in the Lower Platte River Basin

The Lower Platte River Consortium is encouraging the public to be proactive in conserving water. Moderate to exceptional drought is present in the Lower Platte Basin. According to the Climate Prediction Center’s Seasonal Drought Outlook, drought is expected to improve somewhat; but it is expected to persist over the summer months.

The Platte River is a vital water source for the state of Nebraska. Most of the state’s population, including the communities of Omaha, Lincoln, and Fremont, rely on groundwater wells replenished by the Platte River. The Platte River also recharges wells for agricultural irrigation in the Platte River valley, provides habitat for fish and wildlife, and opportunities for recreation.

Weather significantly impacts flows in the Platte River. Other contributing factors include snowpack in Colorado and Wyoming and runoff from rainfall throughout the Platte River area. Nebraska experienced the fourth driest year on record in 2022, with most of the state receiving less than 70% of normal precipitation according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and still faces a precipitation deficit. Although recent precipitation has occurred, soil moisture levels are below average limiting the amount of runoff into the Platte River.

The Platte River experienced significantly below average flows during the Summer of 2022, and similar conditions have persisted this spring and are expected to continue throughout the summer months. As summer approaches, with already low stream flows, further decreases can limit the amount of water available in wellfields along the Platte River used by major cities in Nebraska.

The Lower Platte River Consortium asks for the public’s assistance in conserving water to prepare for possible persistent drought conditions. The Consortium will communicate with the public regarding additional conservation assistance if the Lower Platte River basin continues to experience below average precipitation.

“The Papio NRD will continue to work with the Consortium to monitor and share information with the public on the drought as we expect drier conditions again this year,” said General Manager John Winkler. “Water conservation is an important step that every individual can participate in to help protect our resources.”

 The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources maintains an online dashboard available to the public that displays current drought conditions and outlooks. https://gis.ne.gov/portal/apps/experiencebuilder/experience/?id=c0b751c512a24b83a6ad1c3214941ea8

Further information about drought can be heard on the NeDNR podcast, “Around the Water Cooler,” in the episode released May 31, featuring interviews with several Consortium representatives.

The Lower Platte River Consortium will continue to monitor the conditions and work with individuals and communities to conserve water as necessary.


 About the Consortium

Formed in 2016, the consortium consists of six different entities (agencies) that monitor or rely on the Lower Platte River for their water supply. These agencies include:

  • Lower Platte South NRD
  • City of Lincoln Water System
  • Lower Platte North NRD
  • Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
  • Papio-Missouri River NRD
  • Metropolitan Utilities District



Free Electronic Waste Recycling Collections in May

The Papio NRD and the Nebraska Loess Hills RC&D Council will host four free electronic waste recycling collections in the month of May. These collections are a great way to keep electronics out of the waste stream. The events allow for free disposal of computers, monitors, printers, office equipment, TVs, phones, radios, audio/video equipment, and small electronic devices. Each Papio NRD Field Office will host a collection as follows:

Tekamah, May 23rd, 10am – 1pm, 539 South 13th Street

Blair, May 23rd, 3pm – 6pm, 1060 Wilbur Street

Dakota City, May 25th, 10am – 1pm, 1505 Broadway Street

Walthill, May 25th, 3pm – 6pm, 106 South Costello Street

Grant funding is provided through the Litter Reduction & Recycling Incentive Grant Program, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.



Cover Crop Roller Crimper Now Available to Farmers

A roller crimper, an alternative mechanical method to terminate cover crops without herbicides, is now available for farmers in and around Washington County. By crimping cover crops and rolling them over like a blanket on a field, it can improve weed suppression and reduce moisture evaporation from the soil.

Grant funding from the EPA, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) and the Papio NRD for practices relating to water quality improvements enabled the recent acquisition of the roller crimper.

It’s available to local farmers for use at a low cost of $1/acre (to address routine maintenance). Farmers who may be hesitant about this practice are encouraged to try it on a few acres initially to make their own judgement and consider it a potential future investment.

To learn more about the roller crimper and cost-share on eligible conservation practices, contact Armando Zarco with the Papio NRD at 402-350-3695 or azarco@papionrd.org.

To schedule the roller crimper, contact Phil Kempcke at 402-533-3122 or Nate Kempcke at 402-278-0584 with Kempcke Seeds in Blair.



Elkhorn River Access Sites to Open March 31

The Papio NRD will open all access sites to the Elkhorn River for the season at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 31, due to April 1 (the usual opening date) falling on the weekend. 

The Elkhorn River access sites include:

  • Elkhorn Crossing (intersection of 252nd & Bennington Road)
  • West Maple Road (West Maple Road northeast of Waterloo)
  • Graske Crossing (southeast corner of West Dodge Road & west of 204th St.)   

High river flows occasionally force the Papio NRD to temporarily close the river access sites for safety purposes. Park closures for Elkhorn River sites are called for when the Elkhorn River gauge at Waterloo reads a stage of 5 feet or greater. Also, river access ramps may need to be cleaned of silt, debris and safety inspected before reopening.

Status of the access sites – open or closed? 

You can find out whether the access sites are open or closed throughout the season here:

The access sites are open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. through November 1.


Wildlife Wish List Drive. Please Donate!

The Papio NRD is holding a wildlife wish list drive for Nebraska Wildlife Rehab (NWR), a non-profit organization that works tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and release thousands of wild animals and migratory songbirds each year. NWR doesn’t receive any state or government funding, so donations are critical. Please bring wish list items to the Papio NRD at 8901 S. 154th Street in Omaha through February 24th. Our wildlife friends thank you in advance!

Conservation Ag Open House

A great opportunity for area landowners to learn about practices and programs to conserve natural resources from a variety of conservation partners. Free food and drinks, too!

The event is coordinated by the Papio NRD in association with the Papillion Creek Watershed Enhanced Water Quality Practices Program.



Notice of Availability of Draft Supplemental Watershed Plan – Environmental Assessment for the Papillion Creek Watershed

The United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Nebraska announces the availability of a Draft Supplemental Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Draft Plan-EA) for the Papillion Creek Watershed. The sponsoring local organization (SLO) is the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District (Papio NRD). The project proposes four sites (W-5, D-78, D-2, and S-15) with a series of grade stabilization structures, one stream restoration location (S-5), one sediment control basin (S-1) with grade stabilization, and one high hazard flood damage reduction dam with a permanent pool (WP-1, previously known as D-31). This project will provide flood risk reduction, recreation, and watershed protection benefits to the community.  The proposed improvements may be partially funded by NRCS through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (PL 83-566) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The proposed project is in Sarpy, Douglas, and Washington Counties, Nebraska. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations at Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 1500-1508 require evaluations of the potential effects of federally funded projects on human and natural resources. These evaluations include input from the public. NRCS has reviewed the potential impacts of the project and released a Draft Plan-EA for public and agency review.

Comments on the Draft Plan-EA may be submitted during a public comment period starting February 3, 2023 and ending on March 5, 2023. You can view the complete Draft Plan-EA here. Additional information can be found on the project website.

Comments may be emailed to Melissa Baier at melissa.baier@usda.gov, submitted via phone to 402-437-4065, or mailed to:

Melissa Baier, Acting Nebraska Watershed Planning Coordinator
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Federal Building, Room 152
100 Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

Individuals who require alternative means for communication should contact Melissa Baier at 402-437-4065 or at melissa.baier@usda.gov at least 7 days prior to the end of the comment period.