Stan Staab

Interviewee:


Interviewee Stan Staab, PR Manager, Upper Big Blue NRD, 1979 - 1986; Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1986 - 2014

Stan Staab

Position Held: PR Manager, Upper Big Blue NRD, 1979 - 1986; Manager, Lower Elkhorn NRD, 1986 - 2014

Full Interview:


Interviewer(s):

Ann Bleed

Associated NRDs:

Upper Big Blue

Transcript:

MS. BLEED: This is an interview by Ann Bleed and I am now interviewing Stan Staab. And, Stan, could you first tell me just a little bit about your background, where you're from, how you got into the water business, et cetera.
MR. STAAB: Well, my name is Stanley Carl Staub and I'm from Ansley, Nebraska. I was actually born in Ansley, raised for the most part in that area in Custer County. I did go to California three different times as a young person. My parents moved out and back, and I attended kindergarten, fourth grade, and tenth grade in San Diego and Sacramento. So, I had that experience of traveling back and forth. And it was always interesting to me to travel.
MS. BLEED: I'm just going to stop you a minute and make sure we're getting this recorded. Okay, go ahead, Stan.
MR. STAAB: Yes, as I was saying, it was always interesting to me to travel as a young person. I remember especially when I was a young man, one of the very first times we went to California, we went on the California Zephyr, on the train. And my mother and I were going out to meet my dad in San Diego, and I would sit up in the dome and look out over the countryside as we went by, and I could see the rolling hills and then the mountains, and then the mountains transitioned to the beautiful area in California. And it stuck in my mind, and I guess from that, I always loved to travel. As a young person, I was always interested in geography and social studies and those kind of things. And I used to read National Geographic probably before it was even -- before any young person like my age was reading it and that sort of thing. And I actually have a collection dating back to 1971 of all the National Geographic’s. But at any rate, I just got interested in the -- I guess, just the people and our natural resources of our beautiful state and also not only our state, but the country and the world. And I've had some real opportunities to travel in this country. I've traveled in 39 states. I've got a few left to go. And this position I have now has given me the opportunity to do that a lot and I really appreciate all of that. So, to make a long story short, I guess I've just been interested in these things since I was a little kid. I always wondered what I wanted to do when I grew up. I went off to college at Kearney State after I graduated from high school. I graduated from Kearney State College in 1970. Graduated, actually, from high school in 1965, and went to college and graduated in 1970. I majored in geography and industrial education. After switching majors, I wanted to coach and teach, and I got veered off and got into geography. Cost me a year, so I had to go back and pick up some extra classes. And my mother is a teacher. I have an aunt that's a teacher, another aunt and an uncle that are teachers in California. And so I kind of veered off into education and teaching. And therefore, I got my bachelor's degree in education. So, I ended up teaching geography and social studies, industrial education in two schools, Anslemo-Myrna for three years, which is up in this edge of the Sand hills in Custer County and then I taught three years in Broken Bow, Nebraska, which is also, of course, in Custer County. So, with that background of teaching, my work in geography, and in the spare time, I had several summer jobs, like a young guys does. One of them was working for Sargent Irrigation, as one of the prominent irrigation companies in this state. And I learned a lot working with those guys. I worked with them three different times in the summers, and even after I graduated, I worked for most part of a year. And so, I had the opportunity to really learn from people that knew a lot about the water well business, people that were interested in developing irrigation wells in the state and developing water at that time. Of course, in the '70s -- late '60s and early mid-'70s was a big deal. The center pivot was just catching on in this state, and we drilled many, many wells in the Sand hills, which probably proved to be a mistake as we look back at it today. But I certainly got an education in drilling -- helping drill irrigation wells, working with that sort of thing. I learned a little bit about the water business, certainly a tip of the iceberg, of course. There's so much to learn. And so, after I quit teaching, I decided I wanted to go to -- on to grad school, so I went down to UNL, worked as a full-time student, as a graduate student, worked on my master's degree. And then after that, I went to work for Farm Bureau for a year and got in kind of an insurance business. I didn't really like that, so I changed jobs again and had the opportunity to go to work for John Turnbull in York for Upper Big Blue in 1979. I started Martin Luther King Day in 1979 at Upper Big Blue at York, a wonderful opportunity. John immediately made me manager of the education and information department. We didn't call it in those days. It was called public relations or something else, whatever. And I worked about seven and a half years for John at Upper Big Blue in York, a great mentor for me, a great guy to work for; wonderful people on the staff. Had an opportunity to work with the board of directors on many, many projects and programs, and really got foundation learning about NRDs in that era, from 1979 until 1986.
MS. BLEED: So, were you aware of and involved in any way with the formation of the NRD starting in '69, '68-'69?
MR. STAAB: I really wasn't. In fact, I didn't know much about the NRDs until I began my work in York in '79. I had heard about them, of course. And it's interesting, really. I was thinking about that the other day. The first time I'd ever heard of an NRD, I picked up a Game and Parks magazine and they had featured the natural resource districts in the late '70s in one of those issues. And I spotted that and I thought, that would be very fun, very interesting type of work. I wonder if I could do that kind of work. I wonder if I could somehow get involved in it and learn and be part of that process. So, for me, it was the late '70s when I came on board with the districts. And they were still new. There was a lot of really interesting things going on at that time, and I don't know how much time we want to spend talking about all that, but certainly, the project -- the district at York was very active, especially in the area of groundwater management, even from the early '70s. And I had the pleasure of knowing Senator Maurice Kremer, who was one of -- we often call him the father of the NRDs. I don't know if that's proper or not, but many of us do that. Senator Dick Marvel from Hastings was another gentleman I knew, a wonderful person. And in that sense I did know some of the early people that were working with the districts. So, I became familiar with Dayle Williamson very early on. I became familiar with the state association with Lee Orton at that time was the state association director. In fact, I was in Lincoln looking for work after I decided to get out of the insurance business. And I saw the opening in York and I stopped and talked to -- just out of -- this was pure good fortune, I guess, stopped and talked to Lee Orton in his office, and he was the very first person that I met that had anything to do with NRDs. And I never forgot his words. He said, “Well, Stan,” he said, “if you're looking to make money, you want to get rich, this isn't the job for you.” “But,” he said, “I'm pretty sure it's going to be rewarding to you. You're going to have a rewarding career if you stick with it.” And he was absolutely right about that. And I made a good living. I made a decent living, of course, especially as you get to be manager, the dollars go up some. But when I was teaching, you know, I didn't make a lot of money. All the way through, I wasn't in it to make a big salary. I just wanted to do something that was important that was good, that I felt like there were projects and programs that benefited a lot of people, while still making a living, supporting my family. So, in that sense, I did know some people early on that had a lot to do with the foundation of the districts.
MS. BLEED: Since this is really -- these interviews are trying to focus on the foundations of the districts, and so on, do you remember anything about -- did they tell you anything about those early days when the districts were first getting started?
MR. STAAB: Well, yes, I did. As I learned -- as I read about the districts, and I learned about some of the early interesting things that they tried to do to get the districts going, and, of course, Senator Kremer was very instrumental in this. And he envisioned a type of government that consolidated many of the local entities together, and I understand at that time, there were 150-some, -54, whatever it was, various types of entities, ranging all the way from the old soil and water conservation districts, which, of course, all the other states have that still today. And Nebraska is unique in the fact that we just have the NRDs. We're the only one, I believe. And they talked about -- some of the early meetings I went to, talked about those kinds of things. They talked about how hard it was to get this through the Legislature, to get this concept promoted to the average person. And for people that were on the soil and water conservation boards to give up this type of arrangement that they've known all these years, probably since the 1930s. And I vividly remember -- I don't remember the guy's name, but I think his first name was Carl, maybe right or wrong mentioning his name, but he was down in Geneva in the Fillmore County area, and he was very adamant about and opposed to the idea of NRDs, that this would be a structure that wouldn't work. And he was not real cooperative. I remember, I tried to work with him on this -- work with him on several projects over the years, different things. And he just didn't really like the NRD type of idea.
MS. BLEED: Do you know why he didn't like it?
MR. STAAB: I think he was just opposed to the idea that we were new. We were the new kids on the block. This was something fresh and new and different. And was it even going to work and could it be successful? And before, of course, the USDA had a lot of authority over the soil and water conservation districts, the old SWCDs, and I think he felt threatened about -- to that to some extent, I believe. And, you know, as I talked to him over the years, we became pretty good friends, but early on, since I was in charge of the information education and all the programs of the district, it was kind of difficult to work with some individuals like that. But I never will forget Senator Kremer came in our office one day and the district had decided somewhere in the middle '70s to try to put water meters on all the wells. And that continued for many years. And Senator Kremer was sitting talking to John Turnbull, the manager, and myself and a couple of other people in the office, maybe it was a couple of board members, I don't remember who, and he said, “This is not going to be easy to do.” And he said, “We made a mistake when we passed the Groundwater Management Act in the mid-'70s,” which I believe was '75 of '76. “We should have required a meter on all the new wells in the state, and it would have solved a lot of problems. It would have helped us so much if we'd have been able to do that.” He said that to me, and that was in the early '80s when he said that, or to our group. And we nodded our heads, “You're right, Senator, it would have made a lot of difference.” He said, “But the political opposition was such that it just wasn't going to work.” You know, they were lucky to get what they got out of it, get things going. So there was some real interesting things said. And I remember one time, he came in and I was standing there, and he just looked me in the eye and said, “Stan,” he said, “whatever you do, you need to fight hard for local control, because it's very important in our state. That's what people want. That's what I want as a senator. My friends, my farmer friends, all my other folks, we want to try to maintain local control over these things if we can.” I just remember that so clear.
MS. BLEED: Did he say why or just made that statement?
MR. STAAB: Well, I think he just felt very strongly. And, of course, you got to remember. He came out of the Aurora/Henderson area up there, which is a very, very strong, independent area of the state in terms of self-control. The schools were, of course, all -- we still had local school boards and stuff, but he just felt very strongly that we needed to maintain local control. And I didn't really press him, you know, exactly, for every little detail on it, but we certainly agreed on that, for sure.
MS. BLEED: Yeah.
MR. STAAB: But those are some discussions as I think back about it. And Dick Marvel came into the office one time from Hastings, when he was -- this was in the mid- -- or late '70s when I was there. I remember talking to him a little bit, too, about it. And don't remember any particular stories about things, but, you know, they were two leaders in this effort for sure.
MS. BLEED: Yeah. So, what were the early days like for the -- for you on the Upper Big Blue?
MR. STAAB: Well, you know, it was a big learning curve for me, first of all, to try to find out what the districts were and what they were involved with. We had a pretty active staff. We had a district engineer, in fact, Jay Bitner, and he's still there. Rod DeBuhr is the water department manager. Rod was hired shortly after I was. They hired Dave Clabaugh shortly after myself. Dave also was in the water department. He's the manager today at Lower Big Blue at Beatrice. Rod is still with Upper Big Blue managing at their water programs and so forth. I could see right away that it was a job, it was a career that was going to have a lot of variety to it. It was going to have something new every day. And when you woke up in the morning, you just didn't know for quite sure what you were going to get into. Sometimes you went to work and John says, we're going to work on this, we're going to work on that. And John, after a couple of years, gave me a lot of flexibility in the job. And I was in charge of developing a newsletter, which I sold to the board. They really didn't want to do that. And we went around and did a lot of work promoting that newsletter. I went to a lot of meetings early on, even solo by myself once I kind of got figured out what things were, trying to promote the water meters and the water education and water conservation. At that time, there was a law passed where -- I think it's still in effect that you can't have water running from your irrigation system into the road ditch and on down into other things. There was a lot of interest in building reuse pits in those days. And so, the district got heavily involved in cost share with farmers on reuse pits. And there was just always something different regarding water that was coming up. Jay Bitner was heavily involved in design of the dams. We built several smaller projects. And I would help promote those, get out and talk to people, have public meetings. And everything that we did, we tried to be very transparent about it. We tried to meet with people and explain to them what we were doing. We worked closely with the -- I developed a relationship with -- especially the communities of York, Seward, and Aurora, and developed a relationship -- a pretty close relationship, actually, with those folks. And we would have a lot of meetings and, you know, invite people to come and we'd go to the -- I spent a lot of time going to the county fairs. We'd take a booth and go around. Every summer, I went to all nine counties, (indiscernible) nine counties. I did it every year I was there, just among the many things that I was involved in. So, it was an ongoing process of trying to promote and -- promote conservation, water conservation, and how precious and important water was to us in this state. And we also, you know, we were very interested in what happened with surface water as well as groundwater, because we were trying to build these projects and so forth. And the district had some pretty large ideas for impoundments of water off-stream and on the tributaries that had to do with Platte River. So, they were going to build these larger reservoirs for irrigation, for recreation, for wildlife purposes. I remember we worked a lot with John VanDerwalker from the Whooping Crane Trust way back in the early days to try to get cooperation with those guys on some of these projects. So, my opportunities were just limitless. I got to travel. I got to go on these tours. Some of them were out of state. We got involved with that. The thing with Kansas, the lawsuit that we eventually got into, I could see that brewing even back in the early '80s that there was going to be a conflict there. I don't know why I felt that, but I just felt like we were going to end up somehow in a lawsuit, and we did, eventually. It was very interesting to me. Because of the irrigation development, how rapid it was going on, and there was just a lot of interest and concern there. People were very, just kind of upset in those days, that things weren't quite -- I guess they were complicated. And you tried to explain things to people about why you needed certain laws for this and that. And, you know, everything has got a story, but I just sensed there was a lot of issues. There were issues on the Platte River, conflict with the wildlife interest, conflict with a lot of folks. And that built up, of course, until we had the hearings and the lawsuits and stuff in the early '90s, early and mid-'90s. So, very interesting time. But I was in on the very formative years of those things to the point where I was writing stories about things. I was working with the newspapers. I worked with the radio and TV stations. I worked with the chambers. Anything that had anything to do with the projects and programs for the district, John let me have my hands in that. And it was real interesting to say the least.
MS. BLEED: So, what was the attitude of the irrigators, the farmers, and others in the district in those early years? Did they like the NRD? Were they a little bit wary of -- what was their attitude toward the NRD?
MR. STAAB: I think there was both. I think there was a -- I wouldn't call it a love/hate thing, for sure. And “wary” is probably a good word. They were interested in what we were doing. For sure, they knew that the authority was -- lied a lot of it with the Board of Directors and John, as the manager of that district out there, and for groundwater control rules and regulations, and, of course, the district kept trying to put meters on and promote that. There was early talk of allocation, even, in those days, you know, how they were going to do that, you know, how much it was going to be. It wasn't a lot of talk of allocation, but there certainly was some behind the scenes. I think the public, for the most part, respected most of the programs and projects the NRD did. Especially, they liked a lot of the dams and stuff, a lot of those kind of projects, the reservoirs. And some of them, of course, really appreciated we were trying to manage water the way we were, but when we came up with the big ideas of building dams and then we needed land rights, that set people off. You know, that was a whole different thing. Then they weren't exactly our friends in that respect. But, I think, for the most part, we were pretty well received. It took a long time to get water meters in that district. In fact, I think that's just approved here in 2014, if I'm not mistaken, finally, for the whole NRD down there. So, those kind of things, they're big major efforts. They take a lot of years to do, and that certainly is the case in Upper Big Blue. But those are a few of the memories I have the district. I probably, as I think about it, would have more, but, you know --
MS. BLEED: So, what was it like when you switched districts?
MR. STAAB: Well, I went from one district that was -- our primary focus was building smaller reservoirs, and, of course, as I mentioned, trying to build the bigger ones down there off the Platte, and pure groundwater management up to Norfolk to the Lower Elkhorn, which the main emphasis up there was flood control. And pure and simple, you know, they were building dams. They had built some dams and they were building flood levies. I got in on the very beginning of that. And we ended up building several flood levies for the smaller communities in our district, as well as a couple of dams up there that are pretty good sized. And as I'm looking at the end of 28 years here with my career at the Lower Elkhorn, my primary focus has been on flood control and not so much irrigation or groundwater development just until the last five years or so. And especially the drought of 2012, (since) then, we've started in to talking about and working with groundwater management. And now it's become a very serious thing and we've got a lot going on with that right now. So, there was a big transition. And, of course, the transition for me personally was to go from a kind of a department-type person, where I was doing information education, with that sort of background, into the job as general manager, which I started on Labor Day of 1986, and I took over from Steve Oltmans, who went on to the Papio-Missouri in Omaha. So, for me, it was a big learning curve, working with the board of directors, working with the staff, being in charge of all that. And no matter what people say, the buck stops at the manager's desk, at the boss's desk, whatever it is, all those things. Even the smallest little detail, there are decisions to be made that managers do. And I learned in a hurry how that all works. I made some mistakes early on, hopefully nothing real big, but certainly trying to work with my board was a challenge early on, but I was able to do that. And as the years have gone on, I think it's been very good. I've got a very good board of directors now, and a very good staff, 24 full-time people, and we've grown that staff, based a lot of it on the things that we need to do for groundwater management. I have five people alone working in the -- plus a data processing person, just in the water section alone.
MS. BLEED: How many did you have when you first went up there?
MR. STAAB: I had about -- I think there was nine or ten. I've essentially doubled our staff. And the other thing that we've done up there, Ann, over the years, is build rural water systems out of necessity because of water quality, and now because of water quantity, some things that are going on. We've built -- we're on our third large rural water system that we're planning now, so -- and we built those from scratch, literally.
MS. BLEED: That's a big deal.
MR. STAAB: Yeah.
MS. BLEED: So, when you first went up there, you were building flood control projects. I imagine other than have to, I assume, take land for the project itself, people were pretty appreciative of those projects, is that a fair assessment?
MR. STAAB: Yeah, they were very appreciative of it, especially the flood levies we built for the smaller communities. And I can rattle those off. Scribner was the first one. And then Howells, there was a terrible flood event in the little village -- the city -- community of Howells in the early '90s. A gentleman was killed in that one, and I vividly remember. I was there the day after that flood happened. And the Maple Creek came up and went five or six feet right down the middle of Main Street for quite a ways and did a lot of damage to that community. And we were determined we were going to help protect that community. And because the area is so flat and the flood plain was so broad up there, there's not too many locations for an actual dam on Maple Creek. You have to get off the tributaries to do that. And that could be done, too, and, of course, that has another whole history, the Maple Creek project. But we decided a levy would be the thing to do, and we got involved with Congressman Bereuter who was there at the time, helped us very much. I remember Jim Barr even came to some of those meetings we had in the Howells community. And we got the Army Corps of Engineers out right away and got them involved. And we put that on a so-called fast track and we ended up building. And within about two to three years, a flood levy for the Village of Howells, and it cost about a million and a half dollars. Today, of course, you couldn't build it for that. But that was done because of the flood event, the direct consequence of that flood and that gentleman died in the flood. And I saw for myself the damage that floods -- and it's just impacted my mind so much. The day that I was down there, they were scooping mud out of the stores, cleaning out the community center. It had water four-foot high water line on the buildings. I mean, it's just very vivid to me, the impact and the power of flooding in Nebraska. We went on to build flood control dikes in Pender, Wakefield, Wisner. I think there are five or six of those that we did just over the years. And so, yes, building flood control was very important. It was appreciated by the communities. But when you got off to -- on the tributaries and you wanted to build a dam, that was another story in itself, of course.
MS. BLEED: What were some of the other issues that you were dealing with then?
MR. STAAB: Well, some of the other things that we did, of course, those are the main things that we dealt with was flood control, but we were also involved in groundwater management, too. We were -- as soon as I got there in the early '80s, actually back sometime in the 19- -- late 1970s or 1980, I believe, the district started taking groundwater quality samples. And they also started measuring wells, depth of the water in irrigation wells. And they started building a system of this, very deliberate, very calculated, very professional scientific method with the Conservation Survey Division as our partner and helper in this. We also, over the years, got US Geological Survey involved in it, and we built a water monitoring system, quality monitoring. Every year, we'd go out and gather water quality samples. We're still doing that today to build a database. And over time, as water quality degraded in certain areas of that area, primarily nitrate problems, although that area has iron and manganese issues, and that's why some of the rural water systems have come on line. So, that was going on. There was talk of the rural water systems almost from the very first day I got there. We built the big system over at Oakland. It's called the Logan East System. It's spreads over three counties, about 1,100 customers today. There are three small communities involved in it, three big water tanks, 200,000-gallon tanks, three supply wells by Oakland, and over 800 miles of pipeline buried underground.
MS. BLEED: Wow.
MR. STAAB: And we thought we'd be lucky if we could just get 100 customers with that, and we grew that to the size I just described. It’s a huge system. We're real proud of that. It's gone very well. These are managed, by the way, with a very small staff. I only have three people that manage that. It's a manager and a field technician and a secretary/bookkeeper type person in the Oakland office. But, we have an advisory committee, nine people on that committee. And they take care of day-to-day business. They meet every month and they report back then. The manager comes and reports to our board of directors who makes any final decisions and approves motions. And that's the way we handle our rural water systems up there, and it's worked very well for us. The funding for that, by the way, comes from the USDA from Rural Development. It has from day one. They've been easy to work with. Money's been available to us. And once the project qualifies in terms of economic analysis and so forth, it takes right off and you can get with it and build them. But they're multi-million dollar projects. The Logan East System is about a $13 million project into itself today.
MS. BLEED: Let me ask you this. If we didn't have NRDs and local control, if it was done by the State the way it is done in most states, would some of those projects have been done?
MR. STAAB: I don't think so. I think it would be very difficult to do some of these projects. I think you could eventually get some things done, and it might happen, but I think it would be more difficult to do without that local impetus, the local interest in it. The board of directors are very accessible. We're meeting once a month. We can fast-track things. We can get them moving. We don't have a lot of the other things that you would go through if you did things on a statewide basis. And I'm not here to put down statewide -- our statewide group either, because I really like working with the Department of Natural Resources. It used to be the Department of Water Resources and Natural Resource Commission. Today it's DNR. And we worked very, very well with those people over the years. We've got funding for our projects, programs. I really like working with those folks. But I think, because of the -- just, for example, the project I explained, the Howells project, we were able to react to that very quickly and bring in other partners and leverage these dollars out and we only had probably -- and that Howells project, we only probably have about somewhere around 150- -- probably no more than 200,000 invested in a million-and-a-half-dollar project. Because we were able to get cost share from the Corps of Engineers and from DNR through the Natural Resource Commission to help us with those things.
MS. BLEED: Yeah, although, presumably, you would have gotten those if it had been the state, but I guess, you wouldn't have -- what I think I hear you saying is you wouldn't have been able to act so quickly and perhaps, would buy-in be part of that, too?
MR. STAAB: I think so. I think the buy-in from it and, quite frankly, just knowing -- people know people on the boards, and they were able to promote that, discuss it, whatever. We were able to have that kind of local input as we went through the process. That was always -- that was good; been very successful in my mind.
MS. BLEED: Yeah. Anything else you'd like to add about those days?
MR. STAAB: Well, you know, I've got a lot of great memories with those days, and certainly the 28 years I've been there as manager have been interesting. I've enjoyed it. To me, it was a job that I enjoyed doing. I got up in the morning and went to work, and I like the people I work with, like my staff, and I just -- you never know, every day's a challenge and there's always something coming up. There's a lot of challenges coming to us in the future with groundwater management as we went through a terrible dry year in 2012. And we had trouble with some of our acreages, and we tried to isolate areas and do better management with that. And that's still -- well, we're still working on that, and we'll see the impact of that for several years, yet. That's just a start for what we're trying to do up there. We're putting -- we've identified dome areas within the district in Madison, Pierce, and Wayne Counties now, that we call subareas by township. And we put water meters on. We put 190 meters on this last year. And we also set those folks up for allocation, which is the first time. Who would have ever thought we'd have meters and allocation in northeast Nebraska in an area where you typically get anywhere from 23 to 30 inches of rainfall, not a problem. But in a dry condition, you have that happen. That's what's going on.
MS. BLEED: So, what would you say to other states as we're going into this new challenge? Let me ask you two questions. One is, what about the NRD system do you think is going to make it better to meet these challenges than if we had just the State as it is in most other states?
MR. STAAB: Well, I think the same thing will hopefully prevail. We'll have a local component to it, a strong local board of directors. We'll have professional staff that react to this stuff. We're able to have another, I guess, another group of people working on projects, you know, and try to come in like Senator Kremer said and identify those local problems and maintain local control. And I think that the other states, of course, where it's been difficult is -- for them is, we have taxing authority with the use of property tax, and I'm sure that's been explained in the interviews, but that is big for us, because we're able to maintain budgets. We're able to do projects and programs and keep those things moving because of that money we can collect from local communities. But you have to work hard at that. You have to work with the communities. You have to explain things to them, what you're doing and why. All the way from, for example, my area, the city of Norfolk of approximately 30,000 people in that area, down to the very small communities of less than 100 or so, I have 49 of those communities. You have to continually work with those people and explain to them what you're doing, why you're doing it. This is whatever. And sometimes they don't always agree with you on these things, but you got to keep working towards it. So, it's so critical to maintain that presence where you're trying to just continually work with people and get the word out to folks, you know, and let them know who you are and what you do.
MS. BLEED: And once they decide to fund it, are they more likely to be behind the project?
MR. STAAB: And you're more likely to have a chance if it's -- you know, once they decide to go and you've got an opportunity. Those things don't go easy. I mean, if you're building a dam, if you're building -- collecting money for groundwater management, all those things have to be explained very well, I think, to the public, give them a chance. Have to have hearings, meetings, whatever it is, to let them react to that. And we've had some very contentious hearings and meetings over the years on this, just in the last few years. But, so far, we've been able to move ahead with it, I think, in a positive way. So, for the other states, for them to try to do this, repeat this system or duplicate our system, I don't think would be easy, but I think it's doable. I believe one other state right now, if I'm not mistaken, the State of Oklahoma is seriously considering this on a watershed basis. And I think that's really important. We didn't talk about that, but having those -- essentially to me, it's a no-boundary deal. Where we have political boundaries, we just don't worry about that. We work across county lines. We work across NRD lines and all that sort of thing. Our rural water system at Logan East, 60 percent of that system is in the Papio-Missouri NRD, which is based out of Omaha. Those customers -- they don't even know that they're over there. We don't worry about that. We provide water, good potable water to folks. You know, everybody deserves a good glass of water to drink. And that's our message behind that.
MS. BLEED: So, did you have an inter-local agreement, then, with Papio?
MR. STAAB: We have inter-local agreement with Papio, yes. We had that from the very beginning. So -- and they have a system, actually, a rural water system at Pender, that most of it is in our NRD and they operate it, and so we cross over lines.
MS. BLEED: That's neat.
MR. STAAB: The system that we just completed in 2011, it's a smaller system, with Wausau and Coleridge. We get water from Coleridge and bring it to the little town of Belden. It's only eight miles away, but that source is in Lewis and Clark NRD, but Belden's in our district. We get a source of water from Wausau and we provide it to rural customers. And a couple small towns of Magnet and McLean, there's only about 35 miles of line in this whole system, but because of this effort, we were able to get money through USDA to build a new water tower for the city of Wausau, 100,000-gallon water tank that they never had before just for fire protection alone. And they can use it in case of emergency. We have an agreement with those guys. So, that's why it's the Wau-Col System, Wausau-Coleridge. It's been a really -- a fun project to work on. It's frustrating at times, because of the land rights you need for water lines are voluntary, voluntarily given. And so, you got to cross in front of somebody's driveway sometime that he may not like that, but we have to keep working with them and make sure that it's for a good cause. So, those are just a few highlights. I really enjoy working with the rural water systems. I especially -- working to build projects. I've decided after all these years that I like to build projects more than I do, necessarily, the groundwater management, which is a challenge, too.
MS. BLEED: Often regulatory.
MR. STAAB: But it's regulatory --
MS. BLEED: Right.
MR. STAAB: -- and it's going to be going on forever. Let's face it. A project, at least you can see the beginning and the end somehow along the way.
MS. BLEED: Stan, is there anything else you'd like to add?
MR. STAAB: Well, I've really enjoyed the interview and I hope people do learn a little bit more about the districts and who we are and what we've done over the years from this. It's a great opportunity to tell my story, and I'm really excited about that. So, I really thank you for giving me an opportunity.
MS. BLEED: Well, we thank you very much for telling your story. And I really appreciate it.