Success of Riparian Grant Projects Recognized

Success of Riparian Grant Projects Recognized

July 11, 2008

Recipients of grant funds to address weeds and other overgrowth in Nebraska's river basins have completed the first year of projects, and Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said today he is pleased with the results of their efforts.The Riparian Vegetation Management Grant Program was created in 2007 as part of comprehensive water legislation known as LB 701. The legislation authorized the use of $2 million each year for two years for the treatment of invasive vegetation, such as phragmites and saltcedar, in river basins that have been designated as fully or over-appropriated. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) manages the grant program.

During the first year four organizations were awarded funding for projects in the Republican and North Platte river basins.

"The activities that occurred through these grants already are yielding positive results," Ibach said. "These projects could not have been successful without the education, awareness and cooperation of private landowners. The grantees did a great job of communicating in order to gain good participation."

The Eastern Republican Riparian Improvement Project is a good example, Ibach said. The Twin Valley Weed Management Area was awarded $772,500 to conduct invasive vegetation removal from 83 miles of river from Harlan County Dam to the Nebraska/Kansas state line south of Superior. The group treated phragmites and other weeds on about 1,200 acres along the river and 800 acres near Harlan County Lake. The project also included the mechanical clearing of debris in and along a 52-mile stretch of the river and 24 acres of deep disking.

"There are about 180 landowners along those 83 miles of river. All but two signed easements to allow the work, which says a great deal about the level of outreach on this project," Ibach said.

State Senator Tom Carlson, who authored the riparian vegetation portion of LB 701, said the legislation directed NDA to award the grants for projects with an emphasis on improving the conveyance of stream flow. He said he also is pleased with the results from the first year.

"The effect already can be seen in the Republican River downstream of Harlan County Reservoir. Areas which would have flooded previously have been able to move the rain we've received much more efficiently," Carlson said. "I expect continued improvement as additional invasive weeds and debris are treated and removed during the second year of work."

Ibach said each of the three other grant awardees also completed their projects. The Southwest Weed Management Area conducted the Western Republican Riparian Improvement Project to complement the work done below Harlan County Dam. Project coordinators conducted outreach to land owners, surveying of infestations and treatment of phragmites and some saltcedar. The bulk of their work was the mechanical clearing of invasive woody vegetation on about 1,064 acres in and near the river from the Colorado border to the Cambridge diversion dam, Ibach said.

The West Central Weed Management Area used aerial application of an aquatic herbicide to treat 2,010 acres of mostly saltcedar that had taken over parts of the Lake McConaughy lakebed, which had been exposed through years of drought. Some saltcedar was left untreated in the lower elevations of the lake bed, Project Coordinator Kent Aden said, and was drowned out when lake levels increased during the winter storage season.

"We felt this was a more effective way to use the grant dollars," Aden said. "Saltcedar has invaded Lake McConaughy, and to treat all of it we would have needed most of the LB 701 funds. That wasn't possible considering the needs in other river basins. Mother Nature helped with the rest of the eradication."

The High Plains Weed Management Association, working in the North Platte River Basin near Scottsbluff, conducted the High Plains Invasive Species Project. Ibach said the relatively new association focused on land owner education, surveying for invasive weeds and treatment of about 55 acres in or near the river.

NDA in early June awarded the second year of LB 701 grants. The four first-year grant winners, plus the Platte Valley Weed Management Area, received the $2 million in funding.

"This grant program has provided a good start to removing invasive weeds that have no value for the landowner and are detrimental to the health of our rivers and streams," Ibach said. "We look forward to working with the weed areas and their partners to build upon the work that has already been accomplished."

News Release
Nebraska Department of Agriculture