June 16, 2008
Silent Guardians" are what NRCS calls the hundreds of dams, farm ponds, terraces and no-till farming systems Nebraska farmers and ranchers continue to apply to the land, says Steve Chick, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
"They're silent because they are quietly doing their job of slowing runoff water, holding back large volumes of excess water for a time, and reducing high flow pressures on rivers and streams. Without them, the situation would be much worse," he adds.
Frequent and high volume rains over large parts of the state, from McCook, to Norfolk, to Beatrice, have saturated the soil, filling many dams and ponds, and yet causing flooding. The 900-plus flood reduction structures built in Nebraska since the 1950s, hundreds of terrace systems and farmers planting their crops no-till are all working to slow runoff water.
For example, watershed dams from rains on June 4 and 5 in southwest Saline County reduced damages by $1.15 million had these structures not been in place, according to Chick.
Over the last five years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has provided Nebraska farmers and ranchers with about $25 million per year to install more of these practices.
"That $25 million is more than matched by the individual landowner to protect their land," says Chick. "That is quite an investment to combat the unpredictable ravages of nature."
"As for storm damages, many of our offices are coordinating with county commissioners and others to determine if the Emergency Watershed Program through NRCS can help with some storm repairs for bridges, roads or other impacts of storms," he says.
"With all the rains, tornados and hail striking the state, people need to recognize the good with 'silent guardians' on the landscape working to protect them," Chick says. "Not long ago we were concerned about drought—which still exists in parts of western Nebraska. Nature and its impact are pretty unpredictable.
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