A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust

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Pete Ricketts, Governor

Board of Trustees

District I
District II
District III

Agency Directors

Trust Staff

April 2015

In This Issue:

  1. Executive Director Corner
  2. Funding Categories Roundtable Meetings
  3. Big Ox Energy Siouxland Groundbreaking
  4. Groundwater Education Finds Competitive Home
  5. The Trust Funds the Hill Hawk Nature Center
  6. Trust is Proud Sponsor of 2015 Leopold Conservation Award
  7. Upcoming Events


Executive Director Corner

At our April 2nd board meeting the Trust awarded a little over $19M.  The following week we held four grantee seminars to update recipients on requirements of the grants, tips on filling out necessary paperwork and quarterly reports, how to publicize their grants and a host of other related items.  The seminars were well attended.  We even had a few State Senators attend our Lincoln seminars.

The Trust had booths set up for Earth Day celebrations in Lincoln and Omaha this past Saturday.  Fortunately the Lincoln event was moved indoors to the Assurity Life Insurance parking garage because of the rain, but the Omaha event stayed outside in Elmwood Park and was a little wet and cold.  We were able to visit with a lot of people and answer many questions.  Maybe we even inspired a grant applicant or two.


Earth Day Omaha Celebrations


The Trust will be hosting three category roundtable meetings next month.  See the article below for more details.  We hold these meetings every five years, so it is important for citizens to take this opportunity to give the Trust feedback.

The Huskers’ spring Red and White football game was a big success with 76,800 plus fans attending.  The weather even cooperated after it looked like it would be a soggy day.  I see Ohio State had over 90,000 fans at their spring game.  Nebraska’s record is 80,000 for Bo Pelini’s first year, but we still had one of the best attended scrimmages in the country.  I happened to catch part of the Northwestern’s scrimmage on television and it was being held on a soccer field and they didn’t even have a live line.  They had a coach hiking the ball to the quarterback.  They had players standing in the end zone watching and just a small set of bleachers holding a couple hundred fans.  It looked like a high school practice.

Both the Huskers baseball team and softball team are struggling to be consistent.  They both stay in the rankings, but arebarely hanging in there lately.  Congratulations go out to the Husker women’s bowling team.  I’m not a huge bowling fan, but Nebraska seems to be pretty dominating the last few years and they brought home the National Championship again last week.

I hear there is planting going on, so let’s hope the hard frosts are over and if it snows again, that it melts and that we now get some timely spring rains.  I have seen some big hauls of morel mushrooms on social media the last few days, so if you are a morel hunter, good luck. 

Mark Brohman
Executive Director  


Funding Categories Roundtable Meetings

Every five years the Nebraska Environmental Trust (Trust) holds public meetings to get input from the public as to the categories it funds.  Currently the Trust funds five categories:  surface and groundwater; air quality; soil management; waste management and recycling; and habitat.  Those categories have changed very little since the Trust’s inception in 1992, but it is always worth getting input and re-evaluating.  At the same time the Trust reviews the categories, we take input from the public on our process, how the Trust is operating, things we are doing right, things that can be improved and ideas that need to be explored.

The Trust is also looking for “Big Ideas” : Projects that the Trust should be involved with or ideas that individuals and groups need to think about.  Five years ago it was the Snake River Falls that emerged as a resource that needed to be protected.  The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission took that idea and made an application to the Trust.  They successfully received a grant, but in the end were unable to acquire or protect the Snake River Falls, but it gained statewide attention.

There will be a public meeting in each of the three Congressional Districts from 9:30am-3:30pm each day.  A free lunch will be served and there is no registration cost, but we do ask for you to register.  The meetings are:
Friday, June 5th in North Platte at the Community College (1101 Halligan Drive)
Thursday, June 11th in Omaha at Lauritzen Garden (100 Bancroft Street)
Monday, June 15th in Lincoln at Game and Parks Commission’s Outdoor Education Center (4703 N. 44th Street)  

A lunch will be provided, so if you plan to attend one of the meetings, please RSVP to env.trust@nebraska.gov by May 21st.          


Big Ox Energy Siouxland Groundbreaking


Organic waste challenges were at the forefront of issues occurring in the Roth Industrial Park located between South Sioux City and Dakota City, Nebraska.  A food processing hub of the region, the Roth Industrial Park is home to companies that utilize meat, soy or oat in their production facilities.  Historically, waste streams for all industries traveled under the Missouri River to Sioux City, Iowa’s waste water treatment facility.  However, Sioux City’s treatment facility was struggling to accommodate the volume of waste and individual Pretreatment Programs Permits were reduced significantly.  Expansion plans for several industries were curtailed as a result of these limitations.  Additionally, industries unable to meet the new limits began incurring fines well over a $1 million dollars annually. To save money, industries resorted to sending more solids to the landfill, whereby increasing the burdens on the landfill and the environment; One industry even considered relocation outside of the region.  To combat this crisis, the City of South Sioux City designed an industrial waste water treatment facility, but struggled with the $21 million dollar financial commitment required to construct the facility.  As alternative options were explored to assist the industries in the Roth Industrial Park to handle their increase in waste volumes, Big Ox Energy Siouxland, LLC (BOES) emerged as a promising alternative to a challenging problem. 

Big Ox Energy Siouxland will construct an estimated $25M biogas facility in the Roth Industrial Park. The facility will use anaerobic digestion technology to process industrial wastewater and solid organic waste from the industries in the Roth Industrial Park and convert it into pipeline ready renewable natural gas.  With support from the City of South Sioux City and a generous grant of $500,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Big Ox Energy Siouxland will host a ground breaking ceremony for their new Renewable Energy Facility in the Roth Industrial Park at 1:00 pm on April 27, 2015.   The location for the ground breaking ceremony is 1616 D Avenue Dakota City, NE 68731.  The public is welcome to attend.


Groundwater Education Finds Competitive Home - submitted by Anthony Lowndes

Through support from NET, The Groundwater Foundation has developed and successfully piloted the Hydrogeology: Water for the World event for Science Olympiad. Hydrogeology is a science event that challenges high school students to research and identify solutions to eliminate or mitigate groundwater degradation. Students utilize groundwater modeling software to conceptualize groundwater flow direction, gradient and velocity. The information calculated in the model is then used to answer questions revolving around an introduced contaminant and the students develop real-world solutions.

This fun and exciting model engages students to think critically about the water resources that supply over 50% of the drinking water for the United States and approximately 85% of Nebraska’s drinking water. Science Olympiad is a national nonprofit working to educate students in the STEM areas: Science Technology Engineering and Math. Competitive Science Olympiad tournaments are held at regional and state levels across the country then culminate at the National Science Olympiad Tournament held in Nebraska this year on May 15th and 16th at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

The Groundwater Foundation is now reaching out to high school science educators to let them know about Hydrogeology and how these tools can be used in the classroom to help them meet science curriculum standards.


See what it’s all about and try the Hydrogeology challenge at http://www.groundwater.org/kids/getinvolved/so/hydro.html


The Trust Funds the Hill Hawk Nature Center

Largely with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Hill Elementary School PTA and Principal Michelle Phillips facilitated the building of a Nature Explore-designed outdoor classroom, the Hill Hawk Nature Center, on the Hill School grounds in Lincoln. The five-year project was spearheaded by a PTA subcommittee, and the infusion of funds from the NET was the catalyst for completion of all of the major work on the project. The grant monies went toward the building of several structures, including a shaded adventure platform, a wheelchair-accessible stage, a multi-level messy materials deck, two entryway arbors, as well as perennials and sod that were planted throughout the space. The grant monies also went toward the purchase of signage and a bulletin board. The result is a welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, kid-friendly outdoor classroom that will serve the hundreds of students and teachers of Hill School, and their families and neighbors in the vicinity of the school.



The Nature Explore concept plan was developed based on field-tested, research-based principles for creating effective spaces that support children's interactions with the natural world. The space was built true to the concept and will allow the students to engage in a wide variety of educational activities such as sketching, writing, building math concepts, learning about plants, animals, weather, and other science concepts, and give them a chance to just be in a natural space to play and interact with the environment. Children are the future stewards of the planet, and this will give them an opportunity to unplug and experience the world in a meaningful way right at school.

For more information about the Hill Hawk Nature Center, please visit http://hillhawknaturecenter.org or Like them on Facebook.


Trust is Proud Sponsor of 2015 Leopold Conservation Award

The Nebraska Environmental Trust (Trust) is proud to be one of the main sponsors of the 2015 Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska.  On Friday, April 17, 2015, in honor of Earth Day, Governor Pete Ricketts in a ceremony held at the Capitol, announced the Shaw family was this year’s recipient.  Steve and Vicki Shaw and their son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Julie Shaw run a row-crop and cattle operation just south of Hastings.  The families have partnered with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture to graze public lands and restore wetlands and grasslands. 

The Trust has provided funding for some of these projects as well as for the annual filming of the Leopold Award winners so that their stories can be told and inspire other landowners.  The Shaws began grazing public lands and then purchased a restored wetland and grassland tract.  By working with conservation agencies and organizations, the Shaws improve habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl and lots of other wildlife while being able to raise cattle and grow crops.  It is a win-win situation.  They have diversified their herds so that they can graze wetlands and grasslands at different times depending on dietary needs. 

The Shaws also developed a comprehensive nutrient management plan that includes conservation plans for 2,200 crop acres, establishment of grassland filter strips, pest management and conservation tillage.  The farming and irrigation management practices allow them to improve soil quality, decrease irrigation management of manure, and reduce fertilizer and soil additives.

Congratulations to the Shaws, the 2015 Aldo Leopold Conservation Award winners.  The Shaws will receive $10,000 and later a Leopold crystal award at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s annual convention in December.


Upcoming Events

- April 22, 2015 (Wednesday) - Gallup Earth Day, Omaha NE.

- May 12, 2015 (Tuesday) - 8:00am - 4:00pm Nebraska Children's Groundwater Festival, Grand Island NE.

- May 15 - 17, 2015 (Friday - Sunday) - Spring Into Spring at Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha NE.

- June 5, 2015 ( Friday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in North Platte. Venue: Community College (1101 Halligan Drive)

-June 11, 2015 (Thursday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in Omaha. Venue: Lauritzen Garden (100 Bancroft Street)

June 15, 2015 (Monday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in Lincoln. Venue: Game & Parks Commission's Outdoor Education Center (4703 N. 44th Street)


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