Nebraska Long Pine Creek (RCWP 17)

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Brown & Rock Counties
MLRA: G-66
HUC: 101500-04




4.1 Project Synopsis

The Long Pine Creek project is located in north central Nebraska on the northeastern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills, the largest grass-covered sand dune area in the world. The Sandhills rest upon the Ogallala Aquifer, part of the High Plains Aquifer. The High Plains Aquifer is a 200- mile wide corridor of intermittently saturated sediment and rocks that extends south through Kansas and Oklahoma into Texas. This aquifer supplies water for irrigation, stock watering, and domestic and municipal water supply throughout the project area.

The watershed is drained by Long Pine Creek, the longest self-sustaining trout stream in Nebraska. Relic populations of three species of fish threatened in Nebraska can be found in Long Pine Creek and its tributaries. The Long Pine State Recreation Area, a state park within the project area, is used by over 8,500 people each season, primarily for contact recreation and fishing.

Sediment, bacteria, and nutrients are the primary surface water pollutants impairing contact recreation and fishing on Long Pine Creek. There is potential for degradation of ground water quality from nitrate and pesticide contamination from commercial fertilizers and pesticides.

The primary sources of sediment are from intensive grazing in riparian areas, streambank erosion, and irrigation return flows. Specifically, excessive erosion occurs in the headwaters of Long Pine Creek due to intensive grazing in riparian areas, streambank erosion, and head cutting at the stream's source. Sand Draw and Bone Creek deliver excessive sediment load, warmer water, high fecal coliform, and fluctuating flow to lower Long Pine Creek. The sediment from Sand Draw is primarily from irrigation wasteway discharges and return flows. Excessive erosion occurs along unprotected streambanks and adjacent gullies at the mid-reaches of Bone Creek. Point source feedlots and the Ainsworth sewage treatment plant contribute to high bacteria and nutrient loadings in these tributaries. The water quality monitoring identified the priority subwatersheds of Sand Draw and Bone Creek for best management practice (BMP) emphasis.

The primary water quality goal was to improve the beneficial use of ground and surface waters. Critical area (60,242 acres) criteria were based on high erosion rates and proximity to waterways. Rural Clean Water Program (RCWP) contracts were written on 71% of the critical area. Not all BMP implementation is complete.

The project, which will continue until 1995, is currently emphasizing a system of erosion control and stream protection BMPs. Irrigation water management is used to minimize the total water usage, thereby reducing pollutants entering the streams and ground water. The major components used for irrigation water management were the installation of irrigation tailwater recovery (re-use) systems and the construction of a secondary storage reservoir. This reservoir was completed in September of 1987 using pooled funds from 10 RCWP cooperators. The reservoir reduces the volume of irrigation water use by 2,000 acre-feet annually and, therefore, reduces the amount of irrigation waste water and associated sediment delivered to the creeks by as much as 28,000 tons of sediment per year.

Stream protection using cedar revetments was one of the most innovative and successful practices implemented under the RCWP. As of April, 1991, 19,000 feet of revetments had been constructed. Combined with grazing land protection and fencing, the revetments successfully decreased streambank erosion and provided habitat for trout and other wildlife.

The strong information and education (I&E) component of the project resulted in reduced fertilizer and pesticide use, addressing both ground and surface water pollution simultaneously.

Surface water quality of Long Pine Creek has visually improved. Biological, habitat, chemical, and physical monitoring are being used to monitor fish habitat in streams and demonstrate improvements in recreational fishing in Long Pine Creek. Installation of stream protection measures have improved the instream trout habitat. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and Soil Conservation Service (SCS) staff estimate that the mean carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek has increased from about 75 pounds per acre to about 119 lb/acre, a 58% increase.

Ground water was monitored annually from 1982 and will continue until 1994. The presence of high nitrate concentrations in both irrigation and domestic wells has been documented. About 5-10% of the samples were above the drinking water standard of 10 mg/l. Low levels of atrazine were found in one to two wells per year.

Both surface and ground water were monitored before and after BMP implementation. Pre-BMP surface water quality monitoring was performed from 1979 through 1985 to provide baseline data. A three-year post-BMP monitoring phase began in the fall of 1992 for the surface water. Dedicated monitoring wells will be installed in 1993 to sample ground water. Data will be compared with the pre-implementation data in order to evaluate BMP effectiveness on subwatershed and project level scales.


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Figure 4.14: Long Pine Creek (Nebraska) RCWP project map, NE-1.




4.2 Project Findings, Recommendations, and Successes

4.2.1 Definition of Project Objectives and Goals

4.2.1.1 Findings and Successes

The water quality and land treatment objectives and goals were directed toward on-site erosion control and streambank stabilization.

The project suffered at the beginning because agreement on land treatment and water quality goals could not be reached at the local or the state levels. Some project-level personnel wanted to build large water retention structures, while others wanted to emphasize on-site erosion control BMPs. The latter was more in line with the objectives of the RCWP and was established as the primary project goal in the mid-1980's.

4.2.1.2 Recommendations

Water quality and land treatment objectives and goals should be established based on the water quality impairment and in conjunction with the national objectives of the nonpoint source (NPS) control program.

Pre-implementation water quality data should be utilized to establish critical areas contributing to the water quality problems.

Well-defined quantitative goals need to be established for water quality and land treatment.

Land treatment goals should be directly linked to the water quality goals. These goals should include the identification of priority areas for land treatment.

Water quality monitoring objectives should be quantitative and realistic. The amount of change expected to measure in each primary water quality variable should be stated as part of the monitoring objective. The monitored water quality variables should be directly related to the water quality use impairment. The project team should keep in mind that there may be a lag time between BMP implementation and observed water quality improvements, especially in ground water.

4.2.2 Project Management and Administration

4.2.2.1 Findings and Successes

The RCWP project encouraged inter-agency cooperation between Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), Soil Conservation Service (SCS), Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Nebraska Department of Environmental Control (NDEC), Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), Middle Niobrara Natural Resource District (MNNRD), National Forest Service (NFS), Ainsworth Irrigation District (AID), and Long Pine Landowners Association.

The LCC formed three subcommittees which contributed to project success. The Executive committee provided administrative support and coordinated BMP development. The Technical Action Committee (TAC) developed the technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation, and project strategy portions of the Annual Plan of Work. The TAC also helped develop BMPs and a technical assistance priority system for treating water quality problem areas. The Information and Education (I&E) subcommittee developed the I&E portion of the Annual Work Plan and conducted I&E activities, including field tours and demonstration projects and media coverage.

This project suffered at times from inadequate communication between the Local Coordinating Committee (LCC) and the State Coordinating Committee (SCC). The goals of the RCWP were initially misinterpreted by some of the local project personnel.

The local project personnel finally established realistic land treatment goals and formulated and implemented a successful project.

The project would have been strengthened by early dedication of ASCS and SCS personnel to the RCWP project and by a designated full-time local project coordinator.

4.2.2.2 Recommendations

A project coordinator can be critical to project success. The coordinator should have excellent communication and organizational skills and the ability to cultivate an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork within the LCC. The project coordinator must be able to take initiative, develop good public relations, write proposals, adjust priorities and goals as the project develops, and keep the LCC focused on the water quality and land treatment goals.

Clear, pre-project agreements must be established regarding agency roles, the water quality problem, critical area delineation, water quality and land treatment goals, and land treatment strategy in order for the LCC and the project participants to achieve project objectives and goals.

Priorities based on water quality objectives should be established for specific BMPs and Subbasins.

The SCC should create a Technical Committee who could evaluate the technical aspects of innovative and new practices recommended by the LCC.

To improve communication between the SCC and the LCC, at least one member of the SCC should attend the LCC meetings.

Funds should be available to encourage continued maintenance of BMPs.

4.2.3 Information and Education

4.2.3.1 Findings and Successes

The strong I&E component of this project contributed to its high level of participation.

A strong I&E program resulted in reduced fertilizer and pesticide use, addressing both ground and surface water pollution simultaneously.

Fertilizer management, demonstrated through CES workshops and a 50-acre demonstration farm, was widely adopted as producers realized they could save $10 to $40 per acre by reducing application rates from 220 pounds/acre to 170-180 pounds/acre without sacrificing yields.

In Nebraska, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) association was formed by farmers to provide weekly pest scouting for all members. The association published a newsletter through the CES and broadcast a radio program on insect activity. These efforts supported the pesticide management component of the project's I&E program.

The Cooperative Extension Service was a valuable resource for this project.

4.2.3.2 Recommendations

Emphasizing the economic advantages of the BMPs in discussions with producers can generally result in increased adoption of practices.

Field demonstrations can be a powerful tool for communicating the effectiveness of BMPs with producers.

Technical funds need to be allocated for I&E activities.

4.2.4 Producer Participation

4.2.4.1 Findings and Successes

Field demonstrations were very effective in communicating with producers.

Lack of a feeling of ownership of the off-site water quality problem by producers and lack of clear land treatment strategies hindered participation during the first four years of the project.

The most important reason farmers decided to participate was availability of cost share funds. Increased farm production was given as the second most important reason.

RCWP cost share improvements to feedlots were not approved because they are considered point sources under state regulation.

The most important reasons farmers decided not to participate were economic conditions and costs. Not wanting to be told how to farm was given as the second most important reason.

4.2.4.2 Recommendations

Potential participants should be encouraged to take an active role in defining the land treatment strategy. The strategy must be consistent with the project's water quality goals, not just the economic goals of individual farmer.

4.2.5 Land Treatment Implementation, Tracking, and Evaluation

4.2.5.1 Findings and Successes

The project achieved a high level of farmer participation in RCWP. Contracts were written on 71% of the critical area.

The ground and surface water monitoring program used in this project aided in prioritizing the critical area portions of the watershed.

Land treatment implementation was slow due to unclear water quality and land treatment goals, problem definition, critical area definition, and implementation strategies. Implementation was initiated in 1984.

Emphasis on fertilizer and pesticide management is a key factor in dealing with ground and surface water problems simultaneously.

Cedar revetments utilized for streambank stabilization were one of the most innovative and successful practices implemented under the RCWP. As of April, 1991, 19,000 feet of revetments had been constructed for streambank erosion. These revetments also provide a variety of habitat benefits for trout and other aquatic life. The trout carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek has increased as a result of the revetments and associated habitat improvements.

Approximately 68% of all cost share funds were spent on irrigation and water management. For example, almost 22% of the funds were used for the Ainsworth Irrigation District secondary storage structure. The rest centered on tailwater recovery and water control structures. By collecting irrigation runoff, sediment and chemicals were prevented from entering surface waters. The water collected was then reused. This recycling of runoff saved energy and dollars in addition to reducing the amount of sediment entering streams.

Grazing land protection received approximately 12% of the cost share funds. Fencing to exclude cattle from streambanks, in combination with providing alternative water supplies, became more acceptable to the farmers after they recognized that the fencing would limit, but not preclude, stream access and that the effective grazing acreage would increase because animals would be using the entire pasture, not just the riparian areas. To increase the atrractiveness of grazing land protection strategies, the windmills and pumps used to provide alternative water sources were cost shared.

Although streambank stabilization was addressed, the high priority areas of Sand Draw and Bone Creek did not receive sufficient revetments and other stabilization practices to completely address the major water quality problems.

Through the use of deep soil sampling to enhance fertilizer recommendations and irrigation scheduling, fertilizer use was greatly reduced throughout the watershed.

Fertilizer and pesticide management were widely adopted outside the critical area.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Association was formed to provide field scouting, with the result that pesticide use was significantly reduced.

Improvements to both the Ainsworth and Long Pine sewage treatment plants have occurred so that the plants now comply with USEPA and state standards.

Feedlots continue to contribute pollutants to Long Pine Creek. Opportunities exist to reduce fertilizer use by transferring manure from large feedlots to RCWP-participating farms. RCWP cost share was not available for feedlot improvement due to the classification of feedlots with greater than 1,000 units as point sources under Nebraska law.

4.2.5.2 Recommendations

Water quality monitoring data should be used as fully as possible by resource managers to identify critical areas and select and prioritize BMPs.

Procedures for documenting land treatment / land use and cost share information need to be clearly defined at the beginning of the project. The data bases created should be on a subwatershed drainage scale such that they can be linked with the water quality data base. A data log with RCWP contract, subbasin number, BMP, practice code, critical acres served, units applied, date BMP effective, crop, soil loss savings, water saved, installation costs, and cost share should be recorded as cost-share payments are made. This will facilitate the annual summary of land treatment and land use.

The reporting of "acres served" and "units" applied need to be consistent over time.

4.2.6 Water Quality Monitoring and Evaluation

4.2.6.1 Findings and Successes

Surface water quality of Long Pine Creek has visually improved, especially below the confluence with Bone Creek. Recreational use in the project area has been steady since 1976. Fishing in the project area continues to be impaired by high sediment levels.

The surface and ground water samples reported for 1979 to 1985 were considered pre-implementation or baseline data. Analysis of baseline data identified impaired beneficial uses and helped in targeting location and type of needed BMPs. The pre-BMP water quality monitoring identified the priority subwatersheds of Sand Draw and Bone Creek for BMP emphasis. Based on the water quality results, it was recommended that emphasis be placed on installation of streambank protection and habitat improvement structures in the upper reaches of Long Pine Creek. Emphasis of BMPs which reduce the delivery of runoff into streams was also recommended.

This project has an extensive biological and habitat monitoring design which helped document use impairments.

Baseline data will serve as a comparison when the post- BMP implementation water quality analysis is performed.

The presence of high nitrate concentrations in both irrigation and domestic wells has been documented. About 5 to 10% of the samples were above the drinking water standard of 10 mg/l. A trend of increasing nitrate concentrations has been identified in some irrigation wells. No significant trend was observed in the domestic wells. The irrigation wells are a better source of regional aquifer water quality information compared to domestic wells; however, local contamination may still be a concern. Chemical accidents may have caused high levels of nitrate-N in some wells.

Low levels of atrazine (about 0.1-0.2 part per billion, ppb) were found in one to two wells per year. Trifluralin, alachlor, cyanide, and metolachlor have also been detected in a few samples.

Ground water trend analysis was difficult in most cases because different wells were sampled in different years. Most wells were sampled in two to five years. Only 5 wells were sampled 8 years. Attempts to sample each irrigation well annually were hampered by wells taken out of use by land enrolled in the CRP or set-aside programs, rainy weather, and irrigation rotation timing.

Surface water sampling was discontinued in 1985 at most stations, but was reinstated for 1992-1994. This break in the time series record decreases the potential to clearly demonstrate water quality improvements.

4.2.6.2 Recommendations

As used in the Nebraska RCWP project, direct measures of beneficial use support (e.g., fishery, macroinvertebrate, habitat assessment, aquatic biota occurrence, embryo survival, etc.) should be used whenever possible.

Weekly or biweekly sampling may be better than monthly sampling to increase the number of observations and account for a greater amount of natural variability, thereby increasing the ability to detect changes in water quality.

Use of dedicated monitoring wells is preferable to use of domestic and irrigation wells for monitoring ground water. Use of newly constructed dedicated wells minimizes the potential for local contamination and increases the chances that the wells will be available for monitoring throughout the project period. There is a need for sufficient information about the sampled wells and site-specific information to determine if the nitrate- or atrazine- contaminated wells are responding to local sources of contamination or represent general aquifer conditions.

4.2.7 Linkage of Land Treatment and Water Quality

4.2.1.1 Findings and Successes

The project has estimated significant reductions in sediment delivery to Long Pine Creek. They estimate that streambank stabilization and tailwater recover systems have reduced sediment loadings. Six roadside Critical Area Treatments (CATs) are estimated to have reduced sediment loadings by 19,000 tons annually. The Ainsworth Irrigation District secondary storage reservoir has the potential to reduce sediment delivery by 28,000 tons per year. In addition, the MNNRD's drop structure addressing the headcutting in Long Pine Creek could prevent an additional 1,500 to 2,000 tons of sediment delivery.

Installation of stream protection measures has improved the instream trout habitat and may have increased the trout carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek. Using site-specific evaluations, the project NGPC and SCS staff estimate that the mean carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek has increased from about 75 lb/acre to about 119 lb/acre, a 58% increase (Hermsmeyer et al., 1991). Installing cedar revetments in combination with broadcasting or sodding reed canary grass decreased streambank erosion and flushing out of deposited sand. This resulted in re-exposure of the gravel bed, increased stream velocity, increased stream depth, decreased channel width, and increased spawning habitat.

The project has estimated significant reductions in pesticide and fertilizer use, but does not have an estimate on the corresponding impact on ground water quality. There may be a lag of several years before a measurable impact on ground water quality is observed.

The project has not completed its post-BMP monitoring. Analysis of the water quality and land treatment data will occur in 1995.

The project has a long pre-BMP monitoring record (five years) with both chemical and biological data. Three years of post-BMP monitoring data is planned. Some upstream-downstream site pairs are located in the tributaries. The length of the monitoring record and a high level of land treatment in the critical area provide the potential for documenting the effectiveness of irrigation water management, nutrient management, and streambank stabilization (cedar revetments and reduced riparian grazing) over a 10-year time frame. However, the influx of sediment from headcut erosion may reduce the ability to document BMP effectiveness.

The important explanatory variables of stream flow and rainfall were measured concurrently with water quality sampling. This should increase the project's ability to isolate water quality changes due to BMPs and climatic variability.

The project has documented annual land treatment and some of the land use changes on a subwatershed scale, which should facilitate the analysis. The Nebraska project took the initiative to revise their land treatment data base near the end of the project period in order to more effectively link their land treatment and water quality data bases (Hermsmeyer et al., 1991).

Creation of the land treatment data base after BMP implementation required a lot of effort and some useful information has been lost. Until 1992, there were no detailed procedures established for the collection of land treatment data on a subbasin basis. Delineation of subbasins, as defined by the land drained to the water quality monitoring stations at the tributary outlets, were not utilized to identify land treatment subbasins during the implementation period. In addition, consistent reporting procedures were not utilized for identifying critical acres and acres served. Reconstruction of the ASCS and SCS files that quantified BMP implementation in the critical acres on a subbasin and annual basis was required by the project.

4.2.1.2 Recommendations

Monitoring programs should be holistic. Monitoring should include chemical and physical variables, habitat quality, biotic integrity, land treatment, and land use.

Variations due to seasons and changes in flow need to be measured and incorporated into analyses to allow for valid interpretations on water quality trends. Additional hydrologic and meteorologic variables such as precipitation, storm intensity and frequency, stream flow, and ground water table depth should be measured if related to water quality in the project.

Land treatment and land use information should be tracked by hydrologic (drainage) units to facilitate evaluation of BMP effectiveness. Procedures for documenting critical areas, subbasin delineations, land use, and land treatment data must be established at the projects' beginning. Consistent reporting and a data base should be maintained seasonally or at least annually.

Land use and land treatment within the project area for both participants and non-participants should be tracked in the land treatment data base. Land treatment data tracking should not end with contract expiration if the practice is still being maintained.

Significant changes in annual land use should be incorporated into the analysis to allow valid interpretations to be made regarding water quality changes due to the BMPs and other land use changes. Land use activities that are important to track include cropping patterns, tillage methods, irrigation frequencies, rate and timing of chemical applications, and acres in set-aside programs.

4.3 Project Description

4.3.1 Project Type and Time Frame

General RCWP

1981 - 1995

4.3.2 Water Resource and Watershed Descriptions

4.3.2.1 Water Resource and Water Quality

4.3.2.1.1 Water Resource Type and Size

Surface streams and ground water.

Surface water: Long Pine Creek (drainage = 293,100 acres, average aggregate flow = 150 cubic feet per second (cfs) at mouth); major tributaries are Bone Creek, Sand Draw, and Willow Creek.

The project area rests upon the High Plains Aquifer that extends south through Kansas and Oklahoma into Texas.

4.3.2.1.2 Water Uses and Impairments

Surface water: The watershed is drained by Long Pine Creek, the longest self-sustaining trout stream in Nebraska. Relic populations of three species of fish threatened in Nebraska can be found in Long Pine Creek and its tributaries. The Long Pine State Recreation Area, a state park within the project area, is used by over 8,500 people each season, primarily for contact recreation and fishing. The primary water use impairments are to recreation and fishing.

Ground water: Ground water is used for irrigation, stock watering, and domestic and municipal water supply throughout the project area. The source of ground water is the Great Plains Aquifer. There is potential for degradation of the drinking water supply from nitrate and pesticide contamination.

4.3.2.1.3 Water Quality Problem Statement

Surface Water: Ground water:

4.3.2.1.4 Water Quality Objectives and Goals

Develop new and innovative solutions to water quality problems

Improve the beneficial uses of ground and surface waters in the project area, including domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and cold-water fisheries

Plan, implement, and evaluate BMPs that have been selected to improve water quality and beneficial uses of water in the project area

Demonstrate the water quality effects of nutrient and pesticide management, irrigation water management, and streambank stabilization as BMPs for surface and ground water protection

Educate the general public about the importance of water quality

Develop positive community attitudes toward the importance of water quality

4.3.2.2 Watershed Characteristics

4.3.2.2.1

Watershed Area: 325,100 acres
Project Area: 197,000 acres
Critical Area: 60,242 acres

4.3.2.2.2 Relevant Hydrologic, Geologic, and Meteorologic Factors

Mean Annual Precipitation: 21.5 inches; about 14.5 inches of irrigation water is needed to grow corn.

Geologic Factors: The watershed is underlain by shale and sand stone. Topography is diverse, ranging from nearly level to steep. Most of the watershed is covered by a blanket of eolian sand material. Soils are predominantly silts and sands.

4.3.2.2.3 Project Area Agriculture

The primary agricultural activities are ranching and irrigated corn production, with some production of popcorn, soybeans, and alfalfa.

4.3.2.2.4 Land Use

Use            % of Project Area   % of Critical Area

Cropland (corn and alfalfa):     NA    18
Pasture/range:          NA    81
Woodland:            NA     -
Urban/roads:            NA     1

4.3.2.2.5 Animal Operations

Operation   # Farms     Total #  Total Animal
      Animals     Units

Dairy       3        140         196
Beef       12     25,500      25,500
Hogs        5       1800         720

4.3.3 Total Project Budget (as of 4/91)

  SOURCES  Federal     State    Farmer      Other
ACTIVITY                      SUM
Cost Share    857,540         0     265,069           0     1,122,609
Info. and Ed.    230,605     0        0            0    230,605
Tech. Asst.   422,659     0        0            0        422,659
Water Quality
Monitoring       300,000   297,850       0            0    597,850
SUM      1,810,804   297,850        265,069          0      2,373,723
Source: Hermsmeyer et al., 1991

4.3.4 Information and Education

4.3.4.1 Strategy

The I&E program was directed at informing the eligible landowners of the available RCWP BMPs and the landowners' responsibilities under their RCWP contracts. Particular emphasis was given to irrigation scheduling, fertilizer management involving deep soil testing, and pesticide management using Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM) techniques. The I&E efforts were directed towards landowners and farm operators in the critical area, fertilizer and chemical dealers, the general public, and schools and youth groups.

The CES took the lead role in developing and implementing the I&E components of this project. SCS assisted with the development water quality plans and by providing technical assistance.

4.3.4.2 Objectives and Goals

Increase public awareness of water quality concerns

Educate the general public about the importance of water quality

Coordinate project-related information flow between federal, state, and local agencies

Support and encourage implementation of appropriate BMPs outside the project area

Promote a good working relationship between the local agricultural community and state and federal agencies involved in the RCWP

4.3.4.3 Program Components

Workshops

RCWP quarterly newsletter entitled "Long Pine Rural Clean Water Program Newsletter"

Field tours and demonstrations to study the effectiveness of fertilizer, pesticide, liming, and water management. The CES used a 50-acre demonstration farm to display and test and demonstrate these BMPs.

Survey of land users' attitudes about the effectiveness of the I&E program and the RCWP

Secure adequate media coverage, including the production and viewing of three videotapes, two of which appeared on Nebraska Public Television.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Association was formed in 1983 and provided field scouting, a IPM newsletter, IPM training sessions in identification of pests, weather and soil temperature reports, alerts to potential insect problems, and recommended application methods and rates of herbicides and pesticides.

4.3.5 Producer Participation

4.3.5.1 Level of Participation

4.3.5.2 Incentives to Participation

Cost Share Rates: 75%

Payment Limitations: $50,000 per farmer

Availability of cost share funds

Perception that increased farm production would result from implementation of RCWP BMPs

Fertilizer management, demonstrated through CES workshops and demonstrations, was widely adopted as producers realized they could save $10 to $40 per acre without sacrificing yields.

4.3.5.3 Barriers to Participation

The most important reasons farmers decided not to participate were economic conditions and costs. Not wanting to be told how to farm was given as the second most important reason.

4.3.5.4 Chances of Continued Maintenance/Adoption of BMPs

About 70 to 100% of the critical area BMPs were maintained after the RCWP contracts expired. Maintenance could have been improved if additional funds were available for this purpose. The BMPs most often not maintained were fertilizer and pesticide management, cedar revetments, rotational grazing, and streamside fencing. Fertilizer and pesticide management had the widest adoption rate for non-RCWP participants.

4.3.6 Land Treatment

4.3.6.1 Strategy and Design

The project emphasized a system of erosion control and stream protection BMPs. Land treatment emphasis was placed on irrigation water management, grazing land protection, diversion systems, streambank stabilization, and fertilizer and pesticide management. Irrigation water management was used to minimize the total water usage, thereby reducing pollutants entering the streams and ground water. The major components used for irrigation water management were the installation of irrigation tailwater recovery (re-use) systems and the construction of a secondary storage reservoir. Cedar revetments were constructed to stabilize streambanks. The revetments consisted of dried cedar trees that were secured by cable and steel fence posts to the streambanks. Reed canarygrass seed on top of sediment trapped by the revetments was used to further stabilize the streambank. Fencing, in combination with providing alternative water supplies, was used to exclude cattle from the riparian areas.Emphasis on fertilizer and pesticide management is a key factor in dealing with ground and surface water problems simultaneously.

The project had applied to have a one million dollar sediment structure built on Sand Draw. The structure was never funded because the project could not demonstrate the on-farm water quality benefits and justify expenditure of RCWP funds. After denial of the structure was final, the project concentrated on irrigation water management and streambank stabilization.

Roadside Critical Area Treatments (CAT) were installed to reduce roadside erosion in the project area. These were not funded under RCWP, but by the North Central Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development USDA program through SCS, MNNRD, and Brown County.

4.3.6.2 Objectives and Goals

Reduce streambank erosion

Reduce the delivery of sediment from agricultural lands

Reduce the deep percolation of irrigation water contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides

Reduce excess irrigation water runoff

Reduce agricultural NPS pollution from feedlots

Quantified Implementation Goals: 75% of the critical areas

4.3.6.3 Critical Area Criteria and Application

Criteria: High erosion rates and proximity to waterways, specifically:

Streambanks or gullies with active erosion

Center pivot irrigated cropland with greater than 5T/acre/year soil loss

Rangeland in poor or fair condition

Application of Criteria: Contracts were primarily being applied to the critical areas; however, little priority was given to the order or selection of BMPs.

4.3.6.4 Best Management Practices Used

BMPs Utilized in the Project*:

Permanent vegetative cover (BMP 1)

Animal waste management system (BMP 2)

Diversion system (BMP 5)

Grazing Land Protection (BMP 6)

Waterway system (BMP 7)

Cropland protection system (BMP 8)

Conservation tillage system (BMP 9)

Stream protection system (BMP 10)

Permanent vegetative cover on critical areas (BMP 11)

Sediment retention, erosion, or water control structures (BMP 12)

Improving irrigation system and / or water management system (BMP 13)

Tree Planting (BMP 14)

Fertilizer Management (BMP 15)

Pesticide Management (BMP 16)
*Please refer to Appendix I for description/purpose of BMPs

4.3.6.5 Land Treatment and Use Monitoring & Tracking Program

4.3.6.5.1 Description

Cost shared and non-cost shared land BMPs were compiled to reflect units installed and acres served on a subwatershed and annual basis (Hermsmeyer et al., 1991).

4.3.6.5.2 Data Management

Data are collected by SCS, CES, and ASCS. ASCS maintains the land treatment records and prepares reports.

Procedures for consistent documentation of land treatment / land use and cost share information were not clearly defined at the project beginning. These data bases should be maintained on a subwatershed drainage scale so that they can be linked with the water quality data base. Consistent definitions for critical acres and acres served were not established at the project initiation, making compilation of acres served in each subbasin by year difficult.

4.3.6.5.3 Data Analysis and Results

The ground and surface water monitoring program used in this project aided in prioritizing portions of the watershed for critical area definition. Originally, the streambank erosion in the headwaters of Long Pine Creek was the primary source of sediment. Monitoring and geologic investigations revealed that streambank erosion in both Sand Draw and Bone Creeks was the major contributor.

The Ainsworth irrigation district secondary storage reservoir, upstream of 33,000 acres of irrigated cropland, was completed in September of 1987 using pooled funds from 10 RCWP cooperators. The reservoir reduces the volume of irrigation water applied by an estimated 2,000 acre-feet annually for gravity-irrigated cropland in the critical area, and therefore, reduces the amount of irrigation waste water and associated sediment delivered to the creeks by as much as 28,000 tons of sediment per year.

Stream protection using cedar revetments was one of the most innovative and successful practices implemented under the RCWP. As of April, 1991, 19,000 feet of revetments had been constructed. Combined with grazing land protection and fencing, the revetments successfully decreased streambank erosion and provided habitat for trout and other wildlife. Project personnel developed several innovations to overcome difficulties in implementing cedar revetments. To prevent beaver damage, the cedar trees had to be cut and dried up to a year before use. Reed canarygrass seed was broadcast or placed as sod on top of sediments trapped by the revetments to prevent damage by heavy rains and runoff.

Over half of all cost share funds were spent on irrigation and water management; 21.8% was for the Ainsworth Irrigation District secondary storage structure. The rest centered on tailwater recovery. Sediment and chemicals were prevented from entering surface waters when the irrigation runoff was collected and then reused. This recycling of runoff saved energy and dollars in addition to reducing the amount of sediment entering streams.

The small sediment control dams constructed under BMPs were more cost-effective than the cost of the large structure that was not approved for Sand Draw.

The MNNRD's drop structure is attempting to address the headcutting in Long Pine Creek.

Fertilizer and pesticide management were widely adopted outside the critical area. As a result of deep soil sampling and irrigation scheduling, fertilizer use was greatly reduced throughout the watershed.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Association involving field scouting resulted in a large reduction in pesticide use.

Improvements to both the Ainsworth and Long Pine sewage treatment plants have occurred so that the plants now comply with USEPA and state standards.

Feedlots continue to contribute pollutants to Long Pine Creek. Opportunities exist to reduce fertilizer use by transferring manure from large feedlots (defined by the state as point sources) to RCWP-participating farms. RCWP cost share was not available for feed lot improvement due to the classification of feedlots with greater than 1,000 units as point sources under Nebraska law.

Streambank erosion continues to be a problem in Sand Draw and Bone Creek.

Quantified Project Achievements:

Pollutant         Critical Area 
Source      Units Total % Implemented

Cropland acres    11,000      71%*     
Pasture     acres    49,242      71%       
Dairies  #farms       2        100%       
Feedlots    #            2        100%       
Contracts   #      86           98%
* Contracts were written on 71% of critical area.

4.3.7 Water Quality Monitoring and Evaluation

4.3.7.1 Strategy and Design

The basic strategy is to monitor surface and ground water before and after BMP implementation. Upstream - downstream monitoring stations were utilized in the tributaries and on Long Pine Creek to account for changes upstream of BMP implementation. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Control (NDEC) performed pre-BMP water quality monitoring from 1979 through 1985 to provide the baseline data and identify priority tributaries for BMP emphasis. A three-year post-implementation phase began in the fall of 1992. These data will be compared with the pre-implementation data in order to evaluate BMP effectiveness on subwatershed and project level scales. Biological, habitat, chemical, and physical monitoring are being used to directly monitor fish habitat in streams and demonstrate improvements in recreational fishing in Long Pine Creek.

Water quality monitoring was performed by the NDEC with the assistance of SCS, NGPC, CES, MNNRD.

4.3.7.2 Objectives and Goals

Objectives:

Document the magnitude of surface and ground water quality problems

Demonstrate the water quality effects of nutrient and pesticide management, irrigation water management, and streambank stabilization as BMPs for surface and ground water protection

Pre-BMP Implementation Monitoring Goals:

Document pre-BMP water quality conditions

Identify existing water quality problems, including any areas where surface-water-quality-dependent beneficial uses are impaired by land use activities

Identify and prioritize areas where BMP installation will have the greatest effect

Provide baseline data for evaluation of site-specific BMPs and changes in water quality

Post-BMP Implementation Monitoring Goals:

Determine if there is any change in ambient surface water quality from pre-implementation conditions in Long Pine Creek, Bone Creek, Sand Draw, and Willow Creek

Determine if a primary contact recreation use is attainable on the lower reaches of Bone Creek based on the physical conditions and current public utilization of the stream

Determine the frequency of water quality criteria violations and the level at which the appropriate beneficial uses are supported in streams within the project area

Determine at what level salmonid spawning is currently supported in Long Pine and lower Bone Creeks based on embryo survival in artificial redds

Determine if the macroinvertebrate population (i.e., taxa present, frequency of occurrence, number of individuals, diversity, and pollution tolerance) in Long Pine and Bone Creeks has significantly changed from pre-implementation conditions due to the implementation of BMPs

Determine if the fishery population (i.e., taxa present, frequency of occurrence, diversity, and pollution tolerance) in Long Pine Creek, Bone Creek, and Sand Draw has significantly changed from pre- implementation conditions due to the implementation of BMPs

Determine if the salmonid population (i.e., standing crop, size class composition, and condition factors) in Long Pine Creek has improved from pre-implementation levels due to the implementation of BMPs

Determine if the project implemented by the MNNRD to control headcutting in the upper reaches of Long Pine Creek is effective in reducing sediment delivery from this source

Determine the combined effect of implementing BMPs (cedar revetments, other streambank stabilization measures, and control of headcutting) on fishery habitat and sediment delivery in upper Long Pine Creek

Determine the change in trends in the suspended solids, substrate composition, and bacterial levels in Long Pine Creek due to the implementation of BMPs and feedlot controls

Determine if summer water temperature and instream habitat still restrict the potential for cold water fisheries in the lower reaches of Long Pine Creek

Determine the change in trends in suspended solids, substrate composition, bacteria, nutrients, organic waste, and water temperature in Bone Creek due to the implementation of BMPs and feedlot controls

Determine the change in trends in suspended solids, substrate composition, and water temperature in Sand Draw due to the implementation of BMPs

4.3.7.3 Time Frame

Surface Water:
All sites (except LP8): July 1979 - 1985 and 1992 - 1994
United States Geological Survey (USGS) gauge site near project outlet on Long Pine
Creek (LP8): July 1979 - October 1989 and January 1991 - 1994

Ground Water: 1982 - 1994

4.3.7.4 Sampling Scheme

4.3.7.4.1 Monitoring Stations

Surface Water: 11 sites on Long Pine Creek, Bone Creek, Willow Creek, and Sand Draw (see project map) / runoff event data are collected at 6 surface sites (LP1, LP7,, LP8, BN1, BN3, SD2)

Ground Water: Varying numbers and locations of irrigation and domestic wells were sampled each year (approximately 4-20 of each well type) from a total of 67 different wells.

Streambank erosion: 4 sites to evaluate the magnitude of erosion reduction effectiveness of cedar revetments and upstream movement of the headcut

4.3.7.4.2 Sample Type

Grab

Flow actuated automatic samplers for runoff sampling

4.3.7.4.3 Sampling Frequency

Surface Water: monthly (bimonthly during winter) for baseline samples, composite samples during runoff events, fish and macroinvertebrate samples were collected 2-3 times/year

Ground Water: annually in July or August when the aquifer is used for irrigation / Each well was sampled 1 to 8 times over the project period.

Streambank erosion sites: annually

4.3.7.4.4 Variables Analyzed

Surface Water: Addition Surface Water Variables During Post-BMP Monitoring: Ground Water:

4.3.7.4.5 Flow Measurement

Stream discharge is recorded with all grab samples / runoff event data are collected at 6 surface sites (LP1, LP7,, LP8, BN1, BN3, SD2)

4.3.7.4.6 Meteorologic Measurements

Precipitation is measured at 4 sites (LP1, LP8, SD1, and Ainsworth Airport).

4.3.7.4.7 Other Important Water Quality Monitoring and Evaluation Information

There is interest in assessing the contact recreational potential at Keller Park State Recreation Area on Bone Creek. Bacterial levels and ambient water quality in Bone Creek was investigated in a special interim project study. Monthly samples were collected from November, 1989 through March, 1990; weekly samples were collected from April through October, 1990. The objective was to evaluate the impact of feedlots near the stream. Several feedlots upgraded their livestock waste systems in the 1980's, which is hoped to have reduced pollution from these sources. However, the City of Ainsworth is not currently required to disinfect their effluent which discharges into Bone Creek.

During the post-BMP monitoring period, a recreational use attainability study on lower Bone Creek near the State Recreational Area will be conducted.

4.3.7.5 Data Management

All surface and ground water chemical and biological data are stored locally at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Control, Lincoln, NE. All data collected prior to 1986 were reported by Maret (1985). Ground water data for all years and wells are tabulated in the 10-Year Report (Hermsmeyer et al., 1991)

Both surface and ground water monitoring data are stored in STORET. The biological data have been entered into BIOS, a companion data base to STORET. The BIOS agency and station codes are the same as those used for STORET. For a description of the biological variables measured at each station, see Maret (1985).

     STORET   STORET   PROFILE
AGENCY      CODE  STATION NO. MAP / STATION NO

        Surface Water Monitoring Stations

21NEB001 LP0001   NE-1 / LP1
"      LP0005   NE-1 / LP5
"      LP0007   NE-1 / LP7
"      LP0008   NE-1 / LP8
"      BN0000   NE-1 / BN
"      BN0001   NE-1 / BN1
"      BN0002   NE-1 / BN2
"      BN0003   NE-1 / BN3
"      SD0001   NE-1 / SD1
"      SD0002   NE-1 / SD2

21NEB001 W0001 NE-1 / W1
"      LPR001   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near LP1
"      LPR007   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near LP7
"      LPR008   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near LP8
"      BNR001   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near BN1
"      BNR003   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near BN3
"      SDR02B   NE-1 / Rainfall collected near SD2
The STORET agency code is 21NEAGO1. The STORET station code is of the form "LPGWnn" where `nn' is the well number. The RCWP project has wells 1 through 64 with this naming convention. There are 3 Health Department wells that are used in the RCWP reports, but these wells are not in STORET.

4.3.7.6 Data Analysis and Results

Analysis:

Exploratory data analysis includes tabular presentation of the data, time plots, and calculation of minimum, means, medians, maximums, and standard deviations for water quality concentrations at each site over the pre- implementation period.

Water quality index values are calculated using weighted values of DO, pH, NO3-N, NH3-N, suspended solids, and conductivity. Species diversity and biotic indices were calculated with macroinvertebrate data.

Surface water quality data are compared to the Nebraska Surface Water Quality Standards.

After the post-BMP monitoring is complete, the project plans additional analyses including:

Results:

Surface water quality of Long Pine Creek has visually improved, especially below the confluence with Bone Creek.

The surface and ground water samples reported for 1979 to 1985 were considered pre-implementation or baseline data. Analysis of baseline data identified impaired beneficial uses and helped in targeting the locations and types of needed BMPs.

The pre-BMP water quality monitoring identified the priority subwatersheds of Sand Draw and Bone Creek for BMP emphasis. Based on the water quality results, it was recommended that emphasize be placed on installation of streambank protection and habitat improvement structures in the upper reaches of Long Pine Creek. Emphasis of BMPs which reduce the delivery of runoff into streams was also recommended.

Baseline water quality data will serve as a comparison when the post-BMP implementation water quality analysis is performed (Maret, 1985).

Recreational use in the project area has been steady since 1976. Fishing in the project area continues to be impaired by high sediment levels.

The presence of high nitrate concentrations in both irrigation and domestic wells has been documented. About 10% of the samples were above the drinking water standard of 10 mg/l. A trend of increasing nitrate concentrations has been identified in some irrigation wells. No significant trend was observed in the domestic wells. The irrigation wells are a better source of regional water quality information compared to domestic wells; however, local contamination may still be a concern. Chemical accidents may have caused high levels of nitrate-N in some wells.

Low levels of atrazine (about 0.1-0.2 ppb) were found in one to two wells per year. Trifluralin, alachlor, cyanide, and metolachlor have also been detected in a few samples.

4.3.8 Linkage of Land Treatment and Water Quality

The project has estimated significant reductions in sediment delivery to Long Pine Creek. They estimate that streambank stabilization and tailwater recover systems have reduced sediment load. Six roadside Critical Area Treatments (CATs) are estimated to have reduced sediment loadings by 19,000 tons annually. The Ainsworth Irrigation District secondary storage reservoir has the potential to reduce sediment delivery by 28,000 tons per year. In addition, the MNNRD's drop structure addressing the headcutting in Long Pine Creek could prevent an additional 1,500 to 2,000 tons of sediment delivery.

Installation of stream protection measures has improved the instream trout habitat and may have increased the trout carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek. Using site-specific evaluations, the project NGPC and SCS staff estimate that the mean carrying capacity of Long Pine Creek has increased from about 75 lb/acre to about 119 lb/acre, a 58% increase (Hermsmeyer et al., 1991).

The project has estimated significant reductions in pesticide and fertilizer use, but does not have an estimate on the corresponding impact on ground water quality. The lag time for a measurable response in the ground water may be years.

The project has not completed its post-BMP monitoring. Analysis of the water quality and land treatment data will occur in 1995.

Changes in annual land use were significant and need to be incorporated into the final analysis to allow valid interpretations to be made.

The project has documented land treatment changes on a subwatershed scale which should facilitate the analysis. The Nebraska project took the initiative to revise their land treatment data base near the end of the projects in order to more effectively link their land treatment and water quality data bases. This after-the-fact data base creation required a lot of effort and some useful information was lost. The project had no consistent procedure established for the collection of land treatment data on a subbasin basis that would allow the land treatment information to be directly linked to the water quality monitoring. Delineation of subbasins, as defined by the land drained to the water quality monitoring stations at the tributary outlets, were not utilized during the implementation period for recording land treatment progress. In addition, consistent reporting procedures were not utilized for identifying critical acres and acres served. Reconstruction of the ASCS and SCS files that quantified BMP implementation in the critical acres on a subbasin and annual basis was required.

Documentation of non-RCWP land use changes and activities is sketchy.

4.3.9 Impact of Other Federal and State Programs on the Project

The project felt that the 1985 Farm Bill had a positive effect on the implementation of conservation practices by alleviating economic stress using subsidy payments with the constraint of having a conservation plan.

However, the 1985 Farm Bill competed with the SCS personnel time available to implement the RCWP. The CRP program, Highly Erodible Land (HEL) identifications for each cropland field, conservation plan preparation, and the RCWP all competed with a limited amount of SCS staff time available.

Federal farm programs had a large effect on changes in annual land use. These federal programs are adjusted annually, based on grain stocks on hand. These programs changed annual acres in grain, the amount of chemicals applied to land, and the amount of water needed to irrigate cropland.

Nebraska law defines feedlots with over 1000 animal units as permitted point sources. Feedlots were not eligible for RCWP cost share.

4.3.10 Other Pertinent Information

None

4.3.11 References

A complete list of all project documents and other relevant publications may be found in Appendix IV.

Hermsmeyer, B., D. Jensen, and M. Link. 1991. Nebraska Long Pine Creek Rural Clean Water Program Ten Year Report 1981-1991. Brown County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), Ainsworth, NE. 275p.

Maret, T. 1985. Water Quality in the Long Pine Rural Clean Water Project 1979-1985. Nebraska Department of Environmental Control, P.O. Box 94877 - Statehouse Station, Lincoln, NE. 194p.

4.3.12 Project Contacts

Administration

Betty Hermsmeyer
USDA-ASCS
Ainsworth Field Office
R.R.2
Ainsworth, NE 69210
(402) 387-2242

Water Quality

Dave Jensen (surface water)
Marty Link (ground water)
Nebraska Department of Environmental Control
301 Centennial Mall South
P.O. Box 94877
State House Station
Lincoln, NE 68509-4877
(402) 471-4700 (Jensen)
(402) 471-4230 (Link)

Land Treatment

Jerry Hardy or Diego Ayala
Soil Conservationist
USDA - SCS
Ainsworth Field Office
RR2
Ainsworth, Nebraska 69210
(402) 387-2242

Information and Education

Dennis Bauer
Extension Agent
Long Pine Creek RCWP
BKR Cooperative Extension Service
Brown County Courthouse
Ainsworth, NE 69210
(402) 387-2213