ORD — The Environmental Protection Agency and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality have accepted the Lower Loup Natural Resources District’s Watershed Management Plan for the South Loup River Basin.

LLNRD Assistant Manager Tylr Naprstek said in a press release that the NRD now can secure funding for conservation practices within the watershed.

There are more than 230 stream miles in the basin and the South Loup River Watershed covers more than 1 million acres in Buffalo and Custer counties, where the agricultural uses include farming, grazing and feeding operations.

It includes six communities — Arnold, Callaway, Ravenna, Litchfield, Hazard and Mason City — two community lakes and multiple recreational uses.

Water quality issues are a concern for both groundwater nitrate levels and in-stream E. Coli bacteria levels. NDEQ has also labeled several locations on the South Loup River as impaired.

Additionally, Naprstek said, groundwater level declines in the basin have not made a full recovery following the drought of 2012.

He said any conservation program implemented for the watershed will be strictly voluntary and funding may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Applications within the watershed will receive bonus points. Naprstek said projects not funded through EQIP might qualify for other funding sources and the LLNRD staff and will help in exploring those sources.

Some practices that may qualify for financing are increased no-till farming; fertilizer and nutrient management practices that include soil moisture sensors and soil, water, manure and cornstalk sampling; buffer strips and grassed waterways; and cover crops.

Residents within the watershed also may get program help for septic system inspections, well upgrades and well decomissionings. There also are some funds set aside for livestock feeding operation drainage management.

A full copy of the watershed plan is posted online at https://www.llnrd.org/assets/site/SL%20Watershed%20WMP.pdf. For more information, contact Naprstek at 308-728-3221.

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