Don Kavan, Ron Sabatka, Clint Johannes

Position Held: Board Director, Lower Platte North, 1972 - Present

Interviewer: Gayle Starr

Associated NRDs:

Lower Platte North


INTERVIEWER: Okay, what I'd like each of you to do is give a little introduction of your history with the NRD, how you got on the NRD, and how long you've been on, and so forth. We'll start with you, Don.

MR. KAVAN: In 1972, I was elected to the Natural Resource District. But prior to that I served on the Sand Creek Watershed Committee. And when we were elected, there was 54 people on the original board and then it got elected down to 21 for the Lower Platte North. And we continued from there. And the neat part of it is, is that we actually served for nothing. As directors, we served for nothing for quite a few years. And I don't know how many of the years we served for nothing. And then, when we did finally get compensation, then it was $12 a meeting. And we went on from there. But some of our meetings we started at, we were meeting in David City at the time at the KC Hall and every which place until we found an office in David City. And Al Smith was our manager at that time. And our main concern was just soil and water conservation. And that's what the NRCS was doing at the time. And then we finally included a whole bunch of other activities, which was a whole list of activities which we participated in and we still do. And that's what's neat about the natural resource district is we've expanded to where we pretty much will cover all the natural resources. So, Ron, do you want to take over?


MR. SABATKA: Well, I originally I served on the Long Creek Watershed Board, got elected to that board. And Jerry Erickson was our chairman at the time, and, of course, we had several other people that were on there. I could name them, but it's not important. Then the discussion of forming these natural resource districts came about and our board of course we -- there was quite a bit of dissent in the board about going that route, because we were afear that we would lose local control, and, you know, all these other things. So, then when the NRDs became viable, why for some reason, I did not serve on the original board. Now, why was that, Don, do you remember?

MR. KAVAN: You served on the original board and then got reelected two years later.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, okay.

MR. KAVAN: Because when we switched over into the 54 --

MR. SABATKA: Okay, that's how it was.

MR. KAVAN: You bet.

MR. SABATKA: Okay, so originally, I was not on it, but I've, of course, been here ever since. And we went to David City. That's where the -- our meetings were, our office. And then, we tried to -- got the office moved here to Wahoo, bought our building. We did not own the building that we attended the meetings at in David City. And, like Don said, Al Smith was the manager. And so, we've been here at Wahoo ever since, and remodeled this building. And it was kind of a hardware store when we bought it. We laid the bricks out on the front and did a lot of the work ourselves. And here we are today.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, Clint, I think you've kind of caught on to what these guys are saying.

MR. JOHANNES: I can't really add anything to that history, because I wasn't around then.

INTERVIEWER: What was your -- when did you start and what was your involvement and what got you interested?

MR. JOHANNES: Well, I'd been working -- I don't know if you really want to hear. (Laughter.) It's kind of a -- you're recording this?

INTERVIEWER: I'm recording this. If you don't want to say it in public, don't say it.

MR. JOHANNES: Okay, I won't. How I got involved, but basically, I got involved because I had interest. We had a little bit of farm ground through the years and had done work with the Lower Platte North people, with John, way back then in the David City office. And then there was an opportunity out of it to --

MR. SABATKA: Well, John wasn't at the David City office.

INTERVIEWER: He was for a while, I think.

MR. SABATKA: Was he?

MR. KAVAN: Yeah, John was hired to the David City office.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, John, yeah. I was thinking of Tom.

MR. JOHANNES: And I'd been with him, but there was an opportunity. There was -- there wasn't an opening, but they wanted some competition in one of the areas, so I ran. And in 1990, (indiscernible) NARD as John was and was chairman with that. Now, I'm with the Commission (indiscernible). Been on the water committee most of the time, here. Was on projects, I think. No, not projects, what's the other one? O&E for a few years and then with water.

INTERVIEWER: This is probably a question more for Ron and Don here, but when you started, what did you think the NRDs were? How did you understand the NRDs to --

MR. KAVAN: They were -- the NRDs were -- they were controversial.


MR. KAVAN: Let's put it that way, in 1972. But when it finally come to be, then it was what I did. That was me. I had everything I own as terraced. I've got two dams on the place. And it was what I did, was conserve moisture and soil, because that was the only thing I was doing. I was farming. I was making a living off of farming. And that's what was important to me, and it's still important to me. But that's what got me started in the first place, is that I wanted to terrace the ground, save the soil, and conserve moisture so that we could have better production. And in 1972, when we got 80 bushel of corn, that was pretty good. (Laughter.) But the amazing thing about serving on the natural resource district, and we're going to go back in history a little bit, but when we started, we were having meetings from 7:00 'til 1:00. And they lasted forever. And I -- for the life of me, I can't figure out what we stayed there so long for.

MR. SABATKA: I don't know either why they've lasted.

MR. KAVAN: We didn't have committee systems.

MR. SABATKA: Well, that's why (indiscernible).

MR. KAVAN: We hashed everything out at the meeting.

MR. SABATKA: And nothing was discussed before you got there, so you knew --

MR. JOHANNES: Spent a long time talking it through.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. What about you, Ron. What --

MR. SABATKA: Well, you know, in our watershed meetings, this idea came up and there was talk about this. And we voted, you know, and, boy, there was a lot of dissent. There was really doubt about going that route, you know. There's going to be big government and everything. You know how that all goes. But, in the end, I think it was the right decision. And I was for it right at the beginning, and I don't really know why, but I guess, I thought it would be progress, you know. And I really believe that it is and it was. I think it was just the way to go. And, like Don, I agreed, I always believed in soil conservation. We got a lot of terraces and now we got a lot of (indiscernible) terraces and stuff. Either you're for it or you're not, you know. If you are and you believe in it, that's why you do it, and that's why we stayed this long.

INTERVIEWER: What about you, Clint? What did you understand about the NRDs in 1990, when you got -- first started?

MR. JOHANNES: In 1990? Well, I tell you what I didn't understand, that it was -- that there was so many areas of responsibility. All I had seen up to that point was conservation work and I didn't realize that -- of course, now it's even more than it was back then, and how important evidence tonight's meeting how important groundwater is to --

MR. SABATKA: Well, that's a new thing now, you know. When we started, that was no concern.

MR. JOHANNES: Wasn't even (indiscernible).

MR. KAVAN: Probably had one tenth the irrigation that we've got today.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, yeah, and it's -- we're just starting to get into it where it's really going to get --

MR. JOHANNES: Other districts are ahead of us.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, it's going to --

MR. JOHANNES: Fortunately, we can learn from some of the mistakes they made, and I think tonight we did the right thing and --

MR. SABATKA: Oh, absolutely.

MR. JOHANNES: -- we won't make as many mistakes as some of the Republican and Upper Platte have made. Nothing against them. They just were into it sooner and didn't have the benefit of --

MR. KAVAN: Yeah, well, they didn't know what route to go, either.

MR. JOHANNES: -- the knowledge that we have now because of their involvement.

INTERVIEWER: So, whoever, jump in here. What about this evolution from Soil and Water Conservation to these 12 responsibilities there are today? How did that take place? What all happened?

MR. KAVAN: No till. No till is what changed pretty much so everything.

MR. JOHANNES: Weren't the responsibilities so -- when I came on in 1990, I think that list was already there. There was --

MR. KAVAN: Oh, yeah. That was set out by the Commission.

MR. JOHANNES: -- didn't really get into --

MR. SABATKA: But until it's a problem, it doesn't become a problem. You got to do what happens at the time.

MR. JOHANNES: Well, one of our authorities is solid waste. And thank God we haven't gotten involved in that yet. (Laughter.)

MR. SABATKA: Well, that could change pretty fast. You know, it's hard to find a place to build a dump.

MR. JOHANNES: We may be forced into that at some point.

MR. SABATKA: And I hope I'm retired then.

INTERVIEWER: I think you're right, Clint. The 1972 law had all 12 of those responsibilities in it. None have been added. Now, they've been refined some.

MR. JOHANNES: And we've moved in, particularly the water part of it, moved into that. Like you guys were saying, that wasn't really an issue way back when.

INTERVIEWER: Moved heavily into management issues in addition to building things. One of the things, when I interviewed John a couple weeks ago, I asked him about the move of the office from David City to Wahoo. And I said, was that controversial? His response was, “Well, if you call 11 to 10 vote controversial.” You guys see that.

MR. SABATKA: The only way it happened was Loran Schmit's son voted to have it here, and he was from David City, and I don't know why he did that, but otherwise, it would have never happened.

MR. JOHANNES: Oh, really, it was that close?

INTERVIEWER: He said, “I can remember it to this day, exactly.”

MR. KAVAN: There were five votes to have the office over at Czechland Lake in Prague.


MR. KAVAN: And the thing about it is, was the staff says, “Absolutely not. There's no place to eat there.”


MR. JOHANNES: There is now.

MR. KAVAN: But, yeah, the staff says, “No, we don't want to go there, because where are we going to get lunch and what are we going to have to do?” But the selling point was great, because we owned all the land. We could have built an office there. We could have had machine sheds there. We could have had all our equipment there and it would have been out in the open and we would have had all the parking in the world.

INTERVIEWER: There's only two other NRDs that moved their location that I know of, at least. Papio moved their location, and that was an easy move, because they were in a very poor place and they moved it to the lake.

MR. SABATKA: Maybe you shouldn't put that I said Steve Schmit --

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And the Nemaha moved their office very early on from Syracuse to Tecumseh, but that was very early. It might even have been before -- on the interim boards, because it was very early.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, yeah, it was a tough deal. It was --

INTERVIEWER: What other controversial issues have come before the board in the years that you've all been on the board?

MR. JOHANNES: Well, the one, we talked about a little bit tonight. We're not one to one, and we're a long ways from one to one.

MR. KAVAN: Yeah.

MR. JOHANNES: And we're elected. All of us are elected at large.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, you are.

MR. SABATKA: But we always have gone that route because of the shape of our --

MR. KAVAN: It works.

MR. JOHANNES: And I'm one that don't happen to agree with that. I think Fremont elects us all, and I don't think that's right, because they've got all the votes.


MR. SABATKA: You've got representatives from way up.


MR. KAVAN: (Indiscernible) represent land area.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's right.

MR. KAVAN: And we always talk about land area rather than one to one.


MR. KAVAN: And this is what -- it happens. And, like, Ralph Pinkie (phonetic) makes a 110-mile trip, you know, and if he wasn't there, then we'd have less directors, of course, but --

MR. JOHANNES: Well, he can still --

MR. KAVAN: There's no representation (indiscernible).

THE INTERVIEWER: Yeah. As you're hearing, when Bob Hilger (phonetic) asked you all to introduce yourself and say where you're from, it was a distribution.

MR. KAVAN: Oh, yeah. We pretty well cover the area.

MR. JOHANNES: It's caused by the way we're organized.

THE INTERVIEWER: And only about three or four from Fremont.

MR. JOHANNES: (Indiscernible) subdivision, we're scattered all over.

MR. KAVAN: Yeah, it works out well for us right now.

INTERVIEWER: One of the big things you've done over the years is right out here, Wanahoo. And, you know, what, seven million did I hear, still on that?

MR. JOHANNES: That is still due from the development fund? I think it's nine million.

INTERVIEWER: Nine million? Okay. That's going to take seven years John said.


INTERVIEWER: And that's probably a little optimistic.

MR. JOHANNES: I think in total, the development fund will be providing, what is it, 12-point-something. They're the largest contributor. The Corps, of course, is second. I don't remember what their numbers are, but --

INTERVIEWER: And that was a long drawn out cause. That started when Ray was here.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, yeah. Well, that's been talked about forever. The thing used to be a railroad letdown, what they called it. Well, you know how that is. That's sacred.

INTERVIEWER: So, what do you guys think about the project now that it's pretty much done and virtually done, I guess?

MR. SABATKA: Oh, I think it's the greatest.

MR. JOHANNES: It's good.

MR. SABATKA: All the damage that's been done over the years from here down to Ashland to the city and to the fairgrounds and to the county, and sometimes three and four times in a year it got flooded.

MR. JOHANNES: That and the recreation benefits --

MR. SABATKA: The recreation benefit now and -- originally, years ago, probably wasn't such a big thing, but today it is. See, that's another thing that changed.

MR. KAVAN: Just in bridges and roads.

MR. SABATKA: In bridges and roads and -- you couldn't get to town here many times. It was an island.

INTERVIEWER: I've gone around myself.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, I have too.

MR. JOHANNES: (Indiscernible) around Wanahoo Creek and I'm going to Lincoln. (Laughter.)

INTERVIEWER: Hopefully it isn't raining too much.

MR. SABATKA: I'm telling you, it's been talked about forever and, you know, it --

INTERVIEWER: So, what's your next big project of that size?

MR. KAVAN: Well, Wahoo Creek, we're going to do a lot of --

MR. SABATKA: Wahoo Creek will be another big one, yeah, that's the other branch.

INTERVIEWER: A bunch of dams, is that what you're talking about?

MR. KAVAN: Well, hopefully so.

MR. JOHANNES: The emphasis now is on the water quality, so in order to get funds to help, you got to have a strong water quality benefit to it. And that's what we've started with with that project. Of course, Lake Wanahoo, that was done (indiscernible).

INTERVIEWER: And we all just smiled.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's what you had to call it. Originally, that wasn't the intent, but that's --

INTERVIEWER: Other than big projects, what do you see the NRD doing?

MR. JOHANNES: You heard tonight.

MR. SABATKA: This water things going to be astronomical.

MR. JOHANNES: That's not going to go away.

MR. SABATKA: That's not going to go away. It's going to get -- It's going to get more complex.

MR. JOHANNES: Particularly, if commodity prices stay high, there's going to be more and more pressure to put in more wells. And we got areas, I believe, just can't tolerate a whole lot more wells. There are other areas can, but we need to figure out which can and which can't and then --

MR. KAVAN: Floods will always occur. Mother Nature always seems to exceed everything that we construct. And if we don't do something about what destroys the land through floods, then the problem will continue to be there forever. So, our job is to recognize those problems and try and generate the money to fix those problems. If it's no-till, terraces, structures, that's where we're going to have to be, because that's a natural resource that we need to preserve.

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned water quality potential. Where do you see the NRD going there in terms of what you have to do?

MR. JOHANNES: Well, you only have responsibilities for non-point source quality. And we've got, in our groundwater management plan, we have primarily focused on nitrates. And we've got two areas that are under control right now, and one of them, Schuyler-Richland area, even with those in place, continues to -- the nitrate levels continue to rise, and so we're going to have to do something there to -- that's going to be drastic. They'll hit the next trigger point, I think, here soon. I think the other things that they looked at statewide, and we're included in that, other pesticides and insecticides. I don't think they're really finding much problem other than nitrates. And that will continue to be a focus.

INTERVIEWER: Far and away the biggest issue statewide.

MR. SABATKA: Now these chemicals are changing so rapidly. We're gone from one to another. That, you know, it used to be, atrazine was a problem. Well, now --

MR. JOHANNES: They don't use it now.

MR. SABATKA: Hell, that's an old thing.

MR. JOHANNES: That's a good point.

MR. KAVAN: That was the only one we had.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, and then for quite a while, that's the way it was, so, you know, you're getting a buildup. But now you got so -- there's new ones every year.

INTERVIEWER: It was a real big issue in Shell Creek at one time, atrazine. Huge isse.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah. Oh, really, and I thought, well --

MR. JOHANNES: There will be an issue in our district with municipalities like we heard tonight with their -- what was it, selenium and (indiscernible)?

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that is going to get to be a big thing, too.

MR. JOHANNES: They have nitrate problems as well, and we may be forced into some more rural water to help those little towns.

MR. SABATKA: And in these little towns, it's a big problem.


MR. SABATKA: You don't have enough people to justify and, you know -- and true, though, we knew that when we went there. And I -- and in five years, there'll be less people there than there is today, because those towns are dying. That's just the way it is.

INTERVIEWER: I'd never heard of the selenium issue in Nebraska before tonight. That's the first I'd ever heard of.

MR. JOHANNES: Yeah, but arsenic's been --

INTERVIEWER: Arsenic is --

MR. JOHANNES: -- and what's the other one? The other one is --

MR. SABATKA: Uranium.

MR. JOHANNES: Uranium. (Indiscernible).

INTERVIEWER: I've heard -- (indiscernible). There's some places in the state where copper is an issue, too.

MR. JOHANNES: Oh, really? And it's so expensive to treat that.

INTERVIEWER: Arsenic sounds bad.

MR. JOHANNES: Yeah, the arsenic sounds bad, it's a poison.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, I don't know how these -- how we're going to be able to do it all.

MR. SABATKA: No. We haven't run into it, but our neighbor to the north, they're putting in rural water districts for quantity reasons. I guess that was part of the issue at Bruno also.


MR. JOHANNES: But they're putting it in because there's major rural areas that just can't get water anymore. I hope that doesn't happen to us in our area that joins them up there. Maybe what we did tonight can help avoid that.

INTERVIEWER: What about -- you mentioned the one to one. What about the election issues over the years? Has there been -- in some NRDs, there have been issues where because of some issue of the board, there have been a bunch of people have run on one issue. Has that happened here?


MR. KAVAN: No, I don't ever recall that.

MR. JOHANNES: In fact, we rarely have competition. Out of the nine districts each time, there maybe one or two.

MR. KAVAN: I don't know why that is.

INTERVIEWER: That's very unusual, I think.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, it is.

INTERVIEWER: So, what projects do you see coming down the line now that you've mentioned Wahoo? Do you see other things coming down the line?

MR. SABATKA: Well, Schuyler.

INTERVIEWER: What's the issue in Schuyler?

MR. KAVAN: Wahoo Creek.

MR. SABATKA: Flooding. Yeah, Wahoo Creek --

MR. JOHANNES: Well, and the Fremont --

MR. SABATKA: Fremont, yeah.

MR. JOHANNES: Fremont on the north end (indiscernible) eventually. They'll have to because of the change in flood elevations and --

MR. SABATKA: There's no shortage of problems. (Laughter.)

INTERVIEWER: How's your -- what's your mill levy now?

MR. KAVAN: We're at almost maximum. (indiscernible) --

MR. JOHANNES: (Indiscernible).

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, with this dam and stuff we --

INTERVIEWER: Four, five is the maximum you got.


MR. JOHANNES: One mill for water quality.


INTERVIEWER: Do you ever have anybody come and testify against your budget?

MR. JOHANNES: Nobody comes to the budget hearing, except board members.

MR. SABATKA: I guess we're doing a good job. (Laughter.)

MR. KAVAN: I think that's typical. People just --

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, they don't understand it, don't care. I don't know.

INTERVIEWER: Statewide, I think that's pretty much the issue. Well, you're -- compared to the school districts, you're small potatoes, frankly.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's right.


INTERVIEWER: Frankly, you are.

MR. KAVAN: Well, I think the people see the benefit of what we do and actually don't contest it. As long as it's going fine, they're not going to contest the rates or anything like that. Because, Lake Wanahoo is an absolute benefit to this area, and it's an absolute benefit to everybody that lives down below it. And so nobody was going to contest it, because it was needed. Lake Wanahoo actually started in Morse Bluff, Nebraska.

INTERVIEWER: Is that right?

MR. KAVAN: Yes. There were seven dams proposed to be set down Sand Creek --

MR. SABATKA: Oh, in the --

MR. KAVAN: -- Morse Bluff all the way to Wahoo. And then that plan got turned down and then Lake Wanahoo come up and that's when we started discussing a big one down here. But that started when Wahoo come to us and asked us to do something about water from Sand Creek, because it closed off the town, sometimes three times a year. And they says, we would like to have something constructed out here so that doesn't happen anymore. So, that's where Ray Hartung (phonetic) took off and started addressing the fact that we need to do something, because we were asked by the City Council and we did it. We started with Ray and we started working on the project. And then it just kept manifesting itself until we got it done.

INTERVIEWER: I kind of retired in the middle of this process with Wanahoo, but did the city and the county follow through with their participation financially?

MR. SABATKA: To a certain extent.

MR. JOHANNES: They followed through, but not to the extent that we thought they should.

MR. SABATKA: Not to the original. Well, there was some controversy in the agreement. They agreed to go up to one million dollars, but then in another deal, they said they would pay a certain amount of it, you know. And then it came to a hassle, you know.

MR. KAVAN: There was an Addendum H --

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, the Addendum H.

MR. KAVAN: -- that said they would go up to $1.5 million. And that was signed by the County and then when they settled with it, when we got into a controversy over how much money they were supposed to pay and they settled for the $1 million, because that's what Addendum A said. And all of the rest of the addendums were ignored because they were supposed to pay some interest and all of that kind of stuff, because the interest was eating us up is what happened. And it's still eating us. But they quit at a million dollars and opt out of all the rest of the addendums.

MR. JOHANNES: They each thought their obligation was a million dollars. We thought their obligation was a third of whatever.

MR. SABATKA: It was just a misunderstanding and an improper --

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, that's what I originally understood, a third, but --

MR. SABATKA: You know, and we did get a cash settlement. We just -- it was bad for the community, bad for the area. You know, you got --

INTERVIEWER: Bad publicity.

MR. SABATKA: -- bad publicity.

MR. JOHANNES: When neighbors complain, it's not good.

INTERVIEWER: Not a good thing. I think Don has pretty much said this, but when you -- well, all three of you. When all three of you started with the NRD, you thought the NRD was something and now you think a lot different, I think. Talk about that a little bit, about how this change has taken place fairly slowly.

MR. SABATKA: Well, the changes take place because of need. I mean, things come up and you take care of the problem of the day. You know, if you're a cattle feeder and you got a sick steer, what do you do? You take care of that critter first before you go on. And, you know, that's just kind of --

MR. JOHANNES: And like we said earlier, it's evolved into the irrigation.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, whatever is popular.

MR. JOHANNES: Because that's expanded so fast, and the expansion has caused problems for neighbors and so that's been kind of a hot issue, at least for the last year, which is a new issue. That wasn't an issue we were --

MR. SABATKA: Well, every dry cycle --

MR. JOHANNES: -- (indiscernible) asked for --

MR. SABATKA: -- it gets a little worse.

MR. JOHANNES: I'm sorry?

MR. SABATKA: Every dry cycle, it gets a little worse.

MR. JOHANNES: And 2012 was a killer.

MR. SABATKA: Why sure. And if we had one in another -- next year or whatever, it'll even be worse yet.

MR. JOHANNES: Yeah, because they have more wells in the mix.

MR. SABATKA: More wells, more people.

INTERVIEWER: What about staff? You started out, I think, with Al Smith and Darla, I think was all you had. And now you have a whole --

MR. KAVAN: We had four.

MR. SABATKA: It's just like anything else, I guess. Well, it just multiplies, you know.

INTERVIEWER: How many staff do you have now?

MR. KAVAN: Well, with each responsibility that we took on, we --

MR. SABATKA: I think 18 or 19 or 20. Well, it's close to 20, isn't it?

MR. KAVAN: Yeah, it's 19. Well, now with Tyler --

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's --

MR. KAVAN: With Tyler, it's 20.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's what I thought. You know, if you'd have said you're going to have 20 people 40 years ago, you'd say, no.

MR. KAVAN: But if you stop and think about things that we're doing --

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, I know. I know.

MR. KAVAN: -- you got to have those --

MR. SABATKA: I know, that's what I said, is -

MR. KAVAN: -- because when we started, we had four people and two of them were secretaries in the office, and there's Al Smith and then an assistant manager. And what did we do? We did terraces, we did waterways, and we did just a little bit of conservation. And now, we do it all.

INTERVIEWER: What about this. This came up several times tonight about what the State is going to tell you about the IMPs, the overappropriated areas. How does the NRD work with that? How does that work for you?

MR. JOHANNES: We were declared -- we and some other NRDs, fully appropriated back in 2008, I believe or thereabouts. And it didn't quite look right to us when we saw it, so we hired -- a group of us hired a consultant and checked those numbers and determined there were some errors in it. So the Department looked at it and said, yeah, you're right, there are some errors. So, they reversed that. Well, in that process, then, there was a concern that, geez, if we were that close, all of us collectively, there's going to be a rush of applications to add these wells, so Senator Langemeier at that time, he had been on this board. He saw this coming and said, “You know, we don't want that to happen.” So he offered up legislation that (indiscernible) ended up passing that said, in the hydrologically connected area, you can only add 2,500 acres a year, which is about what we had been adding in the last year. So that's -- we added that, then, for the last -- this would have been the fifth year -- well, the next would have been the fifth year. I think that's right, the fourth or fifth. (Indiscernible). One more year past the amount that were in the legislation. And so this -- what we were talking about tonight, this year, again, the Department will make an analysis to determine -- not just us, but the whole Lower Platte Basin, which is the Loups and the Elkhorns and us, to see which parts of any of those basins might be fully appropriated. They're talking about using a new methodology. Frankly, I think they're probably not going to do that. They're going to use the old methodology, but in any case, they're going to tell us, by kind of sub area, whether we -- each of those sub areas are fully allocated or not, and, if they're not, how much, we had left to expand, which to me is really important, really critical. That'd be really good information to have. And so, I think that's why what we did tonight is important that we slow down a little bit and get this into (indiscernible).

MR. SABATKA: Well, I agreed with that 100 percent. I thought that was a good idea.

INTERVIEWER: This came out a couple times tonight about the relationship of ground and surface water. And 30-40 years ago, we never talked about that.

MR. JOHANNES: No, never even knew -- we didn't think there was any.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. And there's still some people --

MR. JOHANNES: We don't have much surface water irrigation at all in our district. It's -- there's a little bit and if the Department adjudicated what we have, we'd have way less, virtually none. But, nevertheless, the laws that creates the methodology to determine whether we're fully allocated or not is based on what groundwater does to stream flow. And so it all comes back to stream flow. And that's what the old methodology and the new methodology will use, so that's why, when we were talking about ranking tonight, the stream depletion factor, the amount that a well takes water from the stream, is really critical.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, that's going to be -- as time goes on, it's getting to be a bigger problem all the time. And your city people and those, they want to see water in the river .

MR. JOHANNES: Well, and in, like, Lincoln and Omaha, if there's not water in the river, they don't have water (indiscernible) --

MR. SABATKA: Well, there's probably some down below, but there's not as much as if the water was running on (indiscernible).

MR. KAVAN: We supply water to half the population of the state of Nebraska --

MR. SABATKA: At least.

MR. KAVAN: -- that flows through our natural resource district on the Platte River. And that is critical for the simple reason, we need to know how much water is out there and how much of it we can use for irrigation, because the last thing we want to do was run out of water. And if we start running out of water like those people that were here tonight, if half those people were out of water, and some of the complaints that I'm getting in my area, if they don't have water and they can't get water, and we're hearing stories about 500 to 700 feet deep, then those people will vacate that area.

MR. SABATKA: Well, can you drink that water that comes from 700 foot depth? I mean, you can drink it, but, boy, it's not going to taste very good.

MR. JOHANNES: No, I don't think so. I don't think it's drinkable.

MR. SABATKA: Well, that's what I wondered. So what depth --

MR. JOHANNES: See, if they can't get water --

MR. SABATKA: I guess you could take a bath in it.

MR. JOHANNES: -- they will vacate that area.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, sure.

MR. JOHANNES: And they -- and we'll lose the population in the rural areas.

MR. SABATKA: These acreages around Brainard and -- you think anybody's going to want to build a house there and stay there, you know, if you can't get water?

MR. JOHANNES: Well, that's what --

MR. SABATKA: And there'll be more areas like that as time goes on, I'm sure.

INTERVIEWER: What about the endangered species stuff. You know, you got the Platte River, you got the piping plover, the pallid sturgeon, least tern. Have those affected you much at all? You dealt much with that?

MR. JOHANNES: Not really.

MR. KAVAN: There isn't too much we can do. Even the study for the sand bar study, the sand bar moves from one day to the next. And the piping plover, they're at the mercy of the sand bar moving.

MR. SABATKA: It's amazing they lasted this long.

MR. JOHANNES: The people that are dealing with that are involved in the Platte River Recovery Program, and we're not involved --

INTERVIEWER: It's your West, yeah.

MR. JOHANNES: That's Central Platte West, and we're not involved in that. We're fortunate we haven't had to really deal with those.

INTERVIEWER: You're fortunate the Loup River saved you.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, really.

MR. JOHANNES: I was listening to the guy from City of Lincoln talk about, you know, where their water comes from. And these numbers aren't exactly right, but the Loup River provides -- I think it's, like, 70 percent. The Elkhorn provides, like, 20 percent. That may not be quite right, but the Platte, itself, only provides, like, 15-20 percent, because in the summertime, it's dry.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, yeah, for several months.

MR. KAVAN: Grand Island, it's really dry over there.

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, there it is.

INTERVIEWER: Well, this summer when the Colorado issue came up with all the rainwater, you know, until that happened, the Duncan gage was zero.


INTERVIEWER: Nothing, but when you get to North Bend, there's water.

MR. KAVAN: Yeah.


MR. JOHANNES: And the Loup is fortunately a very stable flow.

INTERVIEWER: One of the most steadiest in the world.

MR. SABATKA: Comes in and out of the Elkhorn.

MR. JOHANNES: The South Loup is the least, but the other Loups, whatever they call them, they flow about the same year -- even through 2012, flowed about the same.

MR. SABATKA: They're spring fed, right?

INTERVIEWER: And even when they have a big rain, they don't go up when they have a big rain.

MR. JOHANNES: No, no. Very little flooding on it.

INTERVIEWER: Yep, it don't flood.

MR. JOHANNES: Very stable.

INTERVIEWER: Several years ago, there was a big rain and there was a gage on the North Loup right about Highway 2, and above there, some rancher claimed he had seven inches of rain. Now, maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but he had a lot of rain, and that gage hardly moved.

MR. JOHANNES: That's amazing. It just soaks it up just like a big sponge.

MR. SABATKA: That's sad.

MR. JOHANNES: We're really fortunate that that's upstream from us.

MR. KAVAN: They could reclaim some of the Colorado water when North Platte started absorbing the water quite a bit.

MR. SABATKA: I would think. As dry as we were and that.

INTERVIEWER: You may have seen it. There was a picture and I think I saw it on television. Somebody had taken a picture from an airplane looking west on the Platte River, and I think somewhere around Columbus, above Columbus, I know above the Loup. And the river down below them was just dry. And you can just see that water (indiscernible) --

MR. KAVAN: Creeping in, huh?

INTERVIEWER: Just a line.

MR. SABATKA: It's like a tsunami.

MR. JOHANNES: I didn't see it myself, but they said, ahead of that line of water was a line of darker colored sand, and then the dry sand, so there was the dry sand, then the wet sand, then the water.

INTERVIEWER: And there was a lot of stuff in there, too.

MR. SABATKA: A lot of garbage.

MR. JOHANNES: It wasn't very drinkable.


MR. JOHANNES: In fact, I don't know if they've released drinking -- or, you know, swimming area, not drinking, but swimming and --

MR. SABATKA: I think I heard just yesterday that it's cleared out now and back to what it was.

MR. KAVAN: Back to where where it's usable.

INTERVIEWER: We're having some really strange, you know, South Dakota and Colorado --

MR. KAVAN: Hundreds of cattle died in that.

MR. SABATKA: Boy, it's just a lot.

MR. KAVAN: Tens of thousands.

MR. SABATKA: Oh, unbelievable and they're going to get 12 inches of snow --

MR. JOHANNES: There's more predicted?

MR. SABATKA: Yeah, for some of that area again.

MR. KAVAN: Wyoming's supposed have (indiscernible).

MR. SABATKA: Yeah. I don't know if it's tomorrow or --

INTERVIEWER: Well, I've about run out of questions. You guys have anything that you want to say about?

MR. JOHANNES: No. You're putting this into a book or --

INTERVIEWER: Well, it's going to be a -- we're going to transcribe these recordings and they're going to be put with the State Historical Society. I guess, I was telling Ron and Don that before you came in, that the State Historical Society, so I'll turn this off.