A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust

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Dave Heineman, Governor

Board of Trustees

District I
District II
District III

Agency Directors

Trust Staff


August 2012

In This Issue:

  1. Executive Director's Corner
  2. Waterwise Initiative
  3. Upcoming Events
  4. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and find us on YouTube


Executive Director Corner

The Trust grant application deadline is coming up fast.  Grants are due September 4th.  As always, the grant deadline is the first Tuesday after Labor Day.  We have received a few applications, but the bulk always comes in the last few days before the deadline.

The Nebraska State Fair is upon us and the Trust will have a booth in the Exhibition Building with the ag exhibits again.  Our booth will not be manned every day, but stop by and see if one of us or a board member is there or at least pick up some information if no one is present.  Before you know it, we will be out at Husker Harvest Days on September 11th – 13th.  We will have a booth set up inside the Pheasants Forever and Game and Parks building.  I especially encourage landowners to stop by and talk to the wildlife biologists and get some ideas for improving your habitat and exploring funding options.
The summer went by quickly and the kids are back in school and most colleges are about to start.  Everyone is hoping for some rainfall after an extremely dry summer, even though it is probably too late for most crops.  Some rain now will get the soil moisture up and help pastures for next year.  I just returned from a trip to north central Nebraska where I observed firsthand the devastating fires along the Niobrara River.  There are areas east of Valentine that look like the surface of the moon with only tree skeletons standing.  Other places already have two inch grass blades poking up.  Even some of the cactus and forbs are sending up new growth from the roots.  It will be very interesting to see how this area recovers.  Fortunately there have been a few rains since the fires were extinguished that aided the new growth, but it also brought some erosion and piled black ash on the county roads like little drifts of snow.  One area north of Seneca was really greening up, but it will require some additional rainfall to get established before winter comes.


  Photo by Danielle Shea

For some, football season can’t get here soon enough for both high school and the Huskers.  Let’s hope our second year in the Big 10 is more successful in football and the volleyball team finds a way to get to the final four.

Think rain.

Mark A. Brohman
Executive Director


Waterwise Initiative

(submitted by Christina Hoyt, Community Landscape Specialist, Nebraska Forest Service)

The Water Wise Landscapes Initiative is a statewide, multi-partner, three-year effort to develop model sustainable landscapes and enable partnering communities to develop the plans, tools and incentives to achieve more sustainable use of natural resources.  The principal goal is to create a new landscape ideal that is not only aesthetically acceptable but also environmentally beneficial and sustainable.  Through this initiative we are developing up to 20 demonstration landscapes that conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff.  These landscapes emphasize regionally native plants.  Projects are in fully swing across Nebraska, from a xeriscape boulevard planting in North Platte that breathed life into a blighted parkway in a residential neighborhood (planted by 45 volunteers!) to a business district revitalization project in Florence neighborhood of Omaha which will feature Omaha’s first bio-retention gardens in streetscape.  Below are just a few we would like to highlight:

Bike trail @ Fireworks.  Great projects often have public and private partners. This project has been funded through NET, City of Lincoln Watershed and Telesis. Inc. First implemented in 2008, this project converted 10,000 square feet of grass to a bioswale of native plants and adjacent tree plantings (Trees for Nebraska Towns grant).  The project site sits on City of Lincoln land, adjacent to a bike trail and Fireworks Restaurant. Telesis, inc, who own’s Fireworks, saw that the land adjacent to them looked blighted but also was eroding from run off.  They were also looking to plant trees to help offset their carbon footprint and were interested in exploring a more sustainable landscape.  City of Lincoln Watershed Management was looking to clean up stormwater.  NSA was looking to explore native plant pallets for these gardens and trying something that was less ‘engineered’ to control stormwater—and of course plant trees. Ultimately the three goals were to 1)manage stormwater running off the adjacent properties and erosion that was happening by creating a bioswale and 2) plant trees along the parking lot and bike trail and 3) make it visually pleasing.  Designed by NSA, the initial planting of over 3,000 perennials and grasses was done by 30 Teleis, inc. volunteers. Then in 2011, through Waterwise Initiative, the bioswale was expanded to the south to capture stormwater off the roof and parking lot of a newly constructed building.  This continues to be a test and demonstration garden for native and adapted plants.  Telesis, Inc. maintains the site.  In 2011 this garden was part of UNL Extension’s Stormwater Tour in which 60 engineers, landscape architects and researchers visited it. As the garden has grown, the amount of wildlife (insects, birds, and amphibians) that has moved into the area is amazing. Nearby residents love running, walking and strolling along it.


Fireworks Rain Garden

Downtown Rain Gardens Demonstration Project, Scottsbluff.  
When one thinks of Scottsbluff, they don’t usually think of rain. Managing those occasional downfalls, as well as providing a water conservation planting that can survive the rest of the year, is quite a challenge.  City of Scottsbluff is one of Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s Greener Nebraska Towns.  As such, NSA has partnered with them through the Waterwise Initiative to create several demonstration landscapes. One of the projects utilized a blighted and awkward strip left over from a street project in the downtown area. Over 10,000 square feet of impervious area from adjacent buildings and parking lots now drains into this area.  A series of three rain gardens captures this runoff and allows it to slowly soak into the ground over a 24 hour time frame. 492 native perennials and grasses will make quite the visual impact and habitat for insects and birds in an urban area. 



Bioretention Gardens and Metro Community College
Through a partnership with City of Omaha, Metro Community College, Verio Group (designer), Greenlife Gardens (contractor) and UNL Extension this project was brought to fruition. The goal was to collect stormwater from adjacent roofs and parking lot surfaces near MCC’s administration building in bioretention gardens.  These will slowly infiltrate the water over a 24 hour period. In a typical year over 28,000 cubic feet of water will be diverted from the CSO. (Currently less than a ¼” rain will cause Omaha’s CSO to overflow raw sewage into the Missouri). One of the goals of this garden was to take all that the City of Omaha was learning on previous projects and refine and demonstrate it on this project.   These gardens feature three experimental sediment traps, and a new filtration cell design that will slow and filter water better than previous designs. The infiltration cell features a smaller footprint to reduce costs and slow infiltration and a value to better control flow through the system.   In order to learn what performs best in bioretention gardens many trial species were included into the design. The gardens will be used by MCC’s horticulture program that sits on the adjacent property.  As part of the educational process a design and installation workshop was given to 25 of the MCC horticulture students followed by the installation of all the plant material.  In 2013 MCC will be part of the UNL Stormwater Tour and City of Omaha and NSA plan to present at several conferences. This project also increases habitat for insects and birds through using native and near native perennials, grasses, and shrubs. Areas outside of the gardens were converted to short grass prairie, buffalo grass and shrub beds. 3,400 square feet of irrigated turf grass was converted to diverse plants.


Upcoming Events

- August 24 - September 3, 2012 - Nebraska State Fair, Grand Island

- August 25, 2012 (Saturday) - World O' Water Omaha, Wehrspann Lake

- September 4, 2012 (Tuesday) - General and Recognition Grant Application Deadline

- November 8, 2012 (Tuesday) - Nebraska Environmental Trust 4th Quarter Board Meeting, Ferguson House, Lincoln.

- December 9, 2012 (Sunday) - Ferguson House Christmas Open House, Lincoln. Time: TBA


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