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.



Papio NRD River Access Sites to Open April 1

The Papio NRD will open the Elkhorn and Platte River access sites for the season on April 1st. 

The 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.)
  • Platte River Landing (near Highway 64)   

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. Platte River Landing will close when the gauge at Leshara reads 5 feet or above.

River access ramps may need to be cleaned of silt, debris and safety inspected before reopening.

Access Sites – Open or Closed? 

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

There are no park entry fees. 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.



Keystone Trail Closures

Over the next six months, segments of the Keystone Trail will be closing due to the rehabilitation of 21 stormwater pipes by the Papio NRD. These closures will occur at various times throughout the project, and most are expected to last between four to six weeks. Closings for individual locations will be provided prior to the closing (and updated in this post), but users should anticipate disruption through May 2023. The areas in which the trail will be impacted can be seen on this interactive map, a graphic here, and are listed below.

Little Papio Channel/Levee Culvert (Pipe) Project

The northern portion of the Keystone Trail, between Q and Fort Streets, runs along the Little Papio Creek. Within the Little Papio Creek, there are many corrugated metal pipes that carry local stormwater into the channel that are nearing the end of their design life. As part of our duty as the local sponsor, the Papio NRD must remove and replace or rehabilitate these pipes to maintain adequate stormwater drainage throughout the City of Omaha.

The Little Papio Channel/Levee Culvert (Pipe) Project, which began in November 2022, includes the rehabilitation of 21 stormwater pipes. The Papio NRD has taken every effort to focus on rehabilitation of these pipes to minimize construction timelines and impacts to the construction areas. Regardless of the selected method of repair, trail accessibility will be impacted due to this project.

Trail Areas Impacted

  • On Monday, May 1, a section of the Keystone Trail at Blondo Street was closed so the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District could undertake storm drainage improvements at this location on the trail. The trail will be closed through Wednesday, May 31, and should reopen to the public on Thursday, June 1.  Trail users can leave or get back on the trail using the stairs on the north side of Blondo Street and use S. 85th Street to Western Avenue to Hillside Little League Park to get around the closed section of the trail. Note that because of the stairs, this is not an ADA accessible route. Questions regarding the work or the trail closure should be directed to Martin Cleveland at the Papio NRD at mcleveland@papionrd.org or 402-315-1707.
  • Dodge to S.72nd Streets: The trail is closed to all trail users from just south of Dodge Street to just east of S. 72nd Street for storm drainage improvements by the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. The trail will open to the public on Thursday, May 4.  A suggested detour is to use the sidewalks along Dodge Street and S. 72nd Street. For additional information on the project contact Martin Cleveland at the Papio NRD at mcleveland@papionrd.org or 402-315-1707.
  • South 72nd to Pacific Streets: The trail is closed to all trail users from just east of S. 72nd Street to just south of Pacific Street for storm drainage improvements by the Papio NRD.  The trail will open to the public on Thursday, May 18.  A suggested detour is to use the sidewalks along S. 72nd Street and Pacific Street. For additional information on the project, please contact Martin Cleveland at mcleveland@papionrd.org or 402-315-1707.

We appreciate your patience. We know how important the trail is to all its users.


Stretch of MoPAC Trail Closed Through End of Year

The Sarpy Wastewater Agency has informed the Papio NRD that the MoPAC Trail in/near Springfield will be closed until the end of the year. The trail will be closed from Capehart Road south to Fairview Road until December 31, 2022, due to the agency’s installation of a sanitary sewer line.

The closure will result in no access to/from the trail between these major street crossings. Anyone who would like to use the section of the trail from Capehart to the north (off the top of the map), or from Fairview to the south (off the bottom of the map) will be able to do so.

The entire length of the MoPac Trail along Hwy 31 stretching to and across the Lied Bridge is open for use.



Roller Crimper Soon Available to Farmers

Roller Crimper photo courtesy of Thomas Hennig.

If you planted cover crops this fall and would like to save some money next spring and improve your soil quality on your fields, a Roller Crimper might be the way to go. A Roller Crimper is an alternative option to terminate cover crops without costly herbicides or tillage in the spring. 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. In a nutshell, it can be a win-win scenario.

Don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to try out a new piece of equipment? You’ll be happy to know that with the assistance of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), the Papio NRD has placed an order for a 31-foot Roller Crimper, which should be delivered this Fall. It will be available for local farmers to rent at very little cost.

We’ll be providing further details early next year on how to go about renting this Roller Crimper. You don’t have to do your entire field – maybe give it a try on a few acres and make your own judgement. It might just be something worth investing in for the future. Call Armando Zarco with any questions at (402) 350-3695.