March flooding, water quality discussed at Kansas-Nebraska Big Blue River Compact Administration Meeting

March flooding, water quality discussed at Kansas-Nebraska Big Blue River Compact Administration Meeting

MANHATTAN, KS – The 46th annual meeting of the Kansas-Nebraska Big Blue River Compact Administration was held Wednesday at the Kansas Department of Agriculture in Manhattan.

Roughly 20 representatives from both states’ natural resources districts attended the meeting to give their annual report on water quality, water levels and other business impacting the Little and Big Blue River Basins.

For the Nebraska report, flooding was the lead topic. While southeast Nebraska didn’t sustain as much damage as other parts of the state did, Lower Big Blue NRD manager Dave Clabaugh of Beatrice says the Gage County seat probably saw the worst flooding in the region.

The March flooding closed parts of both U.S. Highway 136 and 77 in Beatrice for several days. Other areas like the West Scott Baseball Complex were also under water for a significant period of time.

Further upstream, the Big Blue reach unprecedented levels in both Crete (30.2 feet) and Seward (24.11).

Total losses from Nebraska flooding are still being tallied, but estimates put it past $1 billion. 81 of Nebraska’s 93 counties declared a state of emergency.

On a regional level, Claubaugh reported that the ground water levels in Gage, Jefferson and Saline Counties have gone up by an average of one foot since last spring, and two feet from last fall.

He attributes this rise mostly to above normal precipitation.

“We see that after a wet winter,” Claubaugh said. “We do see the groundwater table rebound after a wet winter.”

The Lower Big Blue NRD is made up of Gage, Saline, Jefferson and Pawnee counties.

The Kansas-Nebraska Big Blue River Compact was entered into in 1971.  The purpose of the compact is to promote interstate comity, achieve equitable apportionment of the waters of the Big Blue River Basin and to encourage an active pollution abatement program in each state.

Nebraska Department of Natural Resources assistant director Jesse Bradley says the annual River Compact Meeting is a good opportunity to maintain strong communications between Nebraska and Kansas about how water is being allocated between state lines.

“Just making sure we’re communicating well,” Bradley said. “Make sure we’re communicating outcomes of our producers and needs of our water users. So, we can take all of that into account as we’re making important decisions on how to manage and use water across our state lines.”

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