Vivian Frasch, Terry Julesgard

Position Held: Secretary, Lower Niobrara NRD, 1975 - time of interview

Interviewer: Jim Barr

Associated NRDs:

Lewis & Clark NRD

Lower Niobrara

Middle Republican


MR. BARR: This is Jim Barr. It's November 1st, 2013. I'm in Butte, Nebraska, interviewing Vivian Frasch -- How do you pronounce that?

MS. FRASCH: Frasch, that's correct.

MR. BARR: And Terry --

MR. JULESGARD: Julesgard.

MR. BARR: Julesgard. And you -- I've written that down on a piece of paper so I'll have the spelling. Would each of you try to just give me a little bit about your own personal background and -- before we start the interview portion. Terry, do you want to start?

MR. JULESGARD: All right. As I said, I'm Terry Julesgard. I started working for the natural resource districts in 1999 with the Upper Republican NRD. Prior to that, I had a career in farming and also had worked with a surveyor and pretty much done a lot of things connected to agriculture. Always have been concerned about the natural resources of the state and so everything I've kind of done has been keyed in that direction. Like I said, in '99, I got the opportunity to work out at the Upper Republican NRD. I spent two years out there. From there I went to the Lewis and Clark NRD on the other corner of the state and spent ten years working at the Lewis and Clark NRD. And then, since then, I've been here at the Lower Niobrara NRD as the general manager.

MR. BARR: When did you start here?

MR. JULESGARD: I started here in November of 2010.

MR. BARR: Where were you from originally?

MR. JULESGARD: Originally, I'm from central Nebraska. The Elba-Scotia area is where I guess we'd call home.

MR. BARR: Vivian?

MS. FRASCH: I'm Vivian Frasch. Actually, I was born and raised here, five miles out northwest of town. I came to the NRD right out of high school. I began working here March 31st of 1975, and I've been here ever since, so I don't really have any other background to give.

MR. BARR: That's fine. You probably, even though you might not have been officially on the board, remember some of the early formation of this while you were in high school or not?

MS. FRASCH: No, I don't.

MR. BARR: Okay, then I think -- do you have any recollection before early times back in the late '60s and early '70s relative to the --

MR. JULESGARD: I knew that they had started it, but as far as being really connected to it, I really wasn't, because of my family. They had a hardware store and lumber yard, so I really wasn't connected at the farming level at that time.

MR. BARR: Once you started here in '75, what were some of the first issues or projects that this NRD was involved in, do you remember?

MS. FRASCH: Really, the main two items that we worked on the most were tree plantings and grass seedings. A lot of tree plantings and a lot of grass seedings were done. The district has always had drills here. We actually had an individual hired that would go out and do a custom grass drilling.

MR. BARR: Now, did you use anything on any other type of projects, water related, for instance?

MS. FRASCH: No, we just handled the general -- there were not the well permits or irrigation wells going in at that time as there are now.

MR. BARR: When did the -- do you have some of the Sandhills in this area? I'm trying to remember exactly the area you cover.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, the Sandhills has a portion of our district, in the Holt County part of our district. There's quite a bit of that that's considered as part of the Sandhills region where a lot of the district has the Ogallala Aquifer under it. That that's outside of that then, we get into the Dakota and that -- a little bit of glacial till in some of the district.

MR. BARR: In the '80s, there was a -- maybe even the late '70s, there was a fair amount of Sandhills land that was put under pivot irrigation and then later abandoned. Did your district have any kind of involvement in any of those, either after the abandonment in terms of reclamation or anything like that?

MS. FRASCH: (Indiscernible).

MR. BARR: Okay.

MR. JULESGARD: We just got involved in the grasses --

MR. BARR: That's what I was getting at was whether there might have been --

MR. JULESGARD: It's probably where a lot of the grass seeding would come in at that time here. I wasn't here, but that would be my guess that that's where a lot of that grass seeding comes in.

MR. BARR: When did the rural water district portion of your thing come into --

MR. JULESGARD: Rural water started -- the original part of it started around the '82, '83 area, is when they initially decided that there was a need for the water. It was 1986, I believe, is when it finally went into operation.

MR. BARR: Now, you just have the one?

MR. JULESGARD: We just have the one rural water district, the West Knox Rural Water District. Currently they have 220 customers and then they serve the towns of Winnetoon and Verdigre.

MR. BARR: Has there -- any considerations for expansion or anything along that line?

MR. JULESGARD: We have here in recent years. We have had some consideration. When working with the Bureau of Reclamation through their rural water projects that they have, we're looking at a possible regional water supply system. We've done an assessment study and that showed that there was a need in the area. So we're currently working on a feasibility study. The towns that originally were included were Creighton, Center, Niobrara, and Santee were the original towns that were in the assessment. Creighton, once we moved to the feasibility study, Creighton backed out of that at that time. So, we still have Niobrara, Center, and Santee involved, but we're also looking at with the new casino that's been built up there, there would be some more possibility up in that area for more development. Like I said, we're still in the feasibility part, but we don't know if it's going to be something that's -- the way we're looking at it is potential groundwater from around our existing well field area that we have a little bit south and then pumping groundwater up there. And like I said, we're still waiting for the feasibility part of that.

MR. BARR: Now, you're one of the few districts that has a reservation. Has that been of any difference to the involvement because of the Santee --

MR. JULESGARD: Well, the Santee is actually in the Lewis and Clark NRD.

MR. BARR: Oh, okay.

MR. JULESGARD: Their boundary line -- Santee's boundary line is basically our boundary line.

MR. BARR: So, you're -- but you are do --

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, we do work. Because of the West Knox system there --

MR. BARR: That's in both districts, right?

MR. JULESGARD: It crosses the district boundaries there, so we have enough interlocal agreement with the Lewis and Clark that we serve some of their people water up along in that area. Because we actually are -- right now we're putting in an extension on our existing lines that will serve about 12 new tribal members up in that area in the Bazile-Howe Creek area. So we continue to grow a little bit with our system.

MR. BARR: So, you would have been involved with them at Lewis and Clark.

MR. JULESGARD: Yes, I was involved.

MR. BARR: Was that any sort of --

MR. JULESGARD: There was always -- it was always an interesting experience working with the tribe, because they don't necessarily get into a hurry about doing too much of anything. Tomorrow has a different meaning. And once you learn that you just learn to work with it that way. And so that was -- the involvement with the tribe has always been pretty good experience as far as (indiscernible).


MS. FRASCH: Oh, no.


You didn't tell me about this.

MR. BARR: That's why I didn't tell you. Well, let's see, anything else that you particularly remember the first ten years or so that the district -- how big a board did you have?

MS. FRASCH: There have always been 17 as long as I've been here.

MR. BARR: Seventeen? And do you remember any discussion about the early formation? Did they have a big committee of combined people or anything like that?

MS. FRASCH: This was all handled before I came.

MR. BARR: That was all handled before you got here? And is one at large or are they all --

MS. FRASCH: We have one director at large.

MR. BARR: How are you organized in terms of any committees or things like that?

MS. FRASCH: We have some committees.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, we have, I think it's seven standing committees that we have. Of course, our executive committee, groundwater committee, operations, maintenance.

MS. FRASCH: Personnel.

MR. JULESGARD: Personnel, and then we've added the integrated management planning committee and a variance committee. So, that pretty much covers our committees that we have as standing committees.

MR. BARR: With the exception of the last one, were they all pretty much that way all along?


MR. JULESGARD: The last two are the ones that will be -- the IMP and the variance committee are the two that have been added.

MR. BARR: Have you -- let's see there. There was a designation of -- I don't remember if it's in your district or the Middle Niobrara, the designation of rivers and --

MR. JULESGARD: We were -- actually, the designation of the fully appropriated with the 1050 line, the district -- a portion of the district was declared fully appropriated during the -- for the Lower Platte District, because part of that overlap is in the southern part of our district. We've got quite a fair amount of acres that get involved in the Lower Platte, that 1050 designation over the line. So, when the Lower Platte was designated, we had an area that was included in that. And, of course, that was later reversed, but in 2008, the portion of water district west of the Spencer Dam was designated fully appropriated. Of course, at that time, the board challenged that designation, which that one actually ended up going to the Supreme Court. And in July of 2011 is when we got that verdict back from the Court, their decision, and they reversed it because they had used some -- kind of changed their evaluation in midstream and didn't keep it consistent. So, there was some things there, so that's been reversed. So, we've been allowing 2,500 acres a year to be developed in that since 2011.

MR. BARR: And is there quite a bit of interest in that or is --

MR. JULESGARD: We have -- our first sign-up just about took all the 2,500 acres. Our second sign-up that we had took all of the 25. We actually worked it so we ended up with a sign-up in 2011 and 2012. We basically took them at that same time. Then we had one more sign-up, which we had almost double the number of acres requested as we had acres to give out. And at our -- this year here in August, we decided that we're not going to be accepting any applications for any irrigated acres, and we also put 180-day stay on the district at our August 5th board meeting.

MR. BARR: What are some of the current issues that you're dealing with?

MR. JULESGARD: The current issues that we're dealing with right now are, of course, our integrated management plan, which we're working on with the Department of Natural Resources. We've got pretty well our final draft put together on that now. We're probably going to be one of the shortest ones getting done. We really started working on it in July, and we've got a draft together, and you've got three years to do that. So, we've done it in a few months. Of course, nitrates are always an issue. We've got some areas that we have in our phase two looking at possibly expanding some of those into the phase three.

MR. BARR: (indiscernible) part of the effect with a change from phase two to three be?

MR. JULESGARD: Phase two to phase three, we would basically, there's a lot more reporting requirements. And in the phase three areas -- or that we'd move it to phase three, we would be a lot more scrutinized on when and what they would put on for nitrogen. So, we're hoping that we can get the producers come in. We need to start seeing a turnaround before we move to those particular levels. Kind of get a --

MS. FRASCH: Rain shower here.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah. So, that's, you know, one of the things. We also have down in the far corner of our district where the four districts meet down there in the Creighton area, we our developing a Bazile Groundwater Management Plan. And that takes in three townships of our district, about three townships in the Lewis and Clark. I think it's nine in the Upper Elkhorn and about the same in the Lower Elkhorn. We've got -- actually, just got approved for some 319 funding for that so we can hire a coordinator and do some special efforts down in that area. A lot of that brought on by the nitrate issues in the Creighton groundwater drinking water supply. And with our system down there in that corner, too, we're concerned about the nitrates in that area also. So, that's going to be a good project once we get that moving. Like I said, we have a 180-day stay on right now. Updating our rules and regulations to -- so the whole entire district is basically treated equal, when the fully appropriation designation basically split our district in half. Half the district could do whatever they wanted to as far as developing. The other had to go through the process. The board really felt strongly that everybody needs to go through the same process of developing irrigated acres. And so we're -- that's going to be our goal is getting the ranking criteria that will work districtwide, not only for the irrigated acres, but for adding wells also.

MR. BARR: The NRDs were, among other things, originally a combination of the soil and water conservation districts and any other special purpose districts that were existing. Did you have any other special purpose districts that came in other than a soil and water conservation district, do you remember? I don't remember either. I just was curious.

MR. JULESGARD: I don't know that there was in this area.

MR. BARR: Has there -- what sort of conservation program -- have you had anything in particular other than tree planting and grass seeding?

MR. JULESGARD: We work with the NSWCP process. We do a lot of planned grazing systems and a few --

MR. BARR: Just for the record, what does that acronym stand for? Stump you here.

MS. FRASCH: Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation --

MR. JULESGARD: Nebraska Soil and Water Conserva- -- yeah, there you go.

MR. BARR: Okay, I mean, sometimes that people want to know what the initials stand for.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, that's one of them things, you get into this alphabet soup when you get into these things.

MR. BARR: Any other major natural resource related besides water quantity, quality, and conservation that you've had an involvement with?

MR. JULESGARD: Not really. Of course, with the Niobrara and the Scenic River and that, you know, there's always issues that crop up with that. We've got -- there's a new -- the federal government, the National Parks and Wildlife Service are wanting to do a -- looking for more conservation easements along the -- below the Spencer Dam. It's called the Niobrara Confluence Ponca Bluffs. And there's been a real concern by the people that live down along the river in that area with the government wanting more easements and seeing what's happened with some of them. And they're just real concerned that absentee landowners, they'll go for something like that, because then they can go, “Oh, well, the federal government is going to take care of my land. I no longer have to take care of the trees or manage the noxious weeds or whatever. I can just go down and hunt and fish and have a good time.” And that devalues the neighbors' property on both sides. And if you get a fire, you know, that's where the fires usually start and they spread out to those that aren't. So it's just a real concern that you get these patches of maybe not as well managed as the -- if you really had to take care of that yourself. Gets concern along there. And then you also end up with a concern of access. Well, then they can allow other people to access that property. Well, some people just don't know what a fence is, you know, they just will cross that. And there's concern for that. So, just a pretty wide range of concerns about funding levels on the federal government, you know, the Park Service and the Wildlife Service, you know, they always have to struggle with funding issues. And if they don't have money to manage those places, well, then that really becomes a problem for everybody, so that's probably the main concern on that.

MR. BARR: The Lower Loup had the Pibel Lake and some others giving back to the NRD. Have you had anything like that?

MR. JULESGARD: No, we haven't had anything. There really isn't any recreation areas in our -- in the district. The board has really kind of shied away from any of those. We really don't have any place for projects that would, you know, really fit into that too well. You know, the Spencer Dam was already there, so there wasn't anything that needed to be that. Of course, that's always a contention point as the Spencer Dam was always a trigger point for determinations of things. So, what the future holds, you know, there's always issues with in-stream flows, you know, how much flow needs to be in the river and that. We deal a lot with those kind of issues, trying to keep a balance between Game and Parks and -- Nebraska Game and Parks and then the federal interests that they have. They always want to kind of flex their muscles a little bit and say, well, we got a right to so much water in the river too. And so, trying to keep a balance of -- so we can keep the local control is probably one of the biggest things on the river, trying to keep or get as much local control as we can on it.

MR. BARR: Any other particular projects or programs or issues that either now or in the past that you can recall?

MS. FRASCH: The O'Neill unit, the O'Neill Irrigation Unit was --

MR. BARR: Did that have an impact on you to --

MR. JULESGARD: Oh, that was the Norden Dam, wasn't it?

MS. FRASCH: Uh-huh.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, there was a -- yeah, that was another place the NRD board took a pretty hard stand against that project.

MR. BARR: Against the Norden Dam?

MR. JULESGARD: Just for the simple fact with they know how much sand that river carries and if you were to put a sand block, because that's basically what it amounted to, you'd have put a sand block, another sand block, in the river, and you would have just backed up sand for. You know, and trying to keep running irrigation system off of that, they felt was just pretty unreasonable at the time. They were -- it was a very ambitious project, if I remember correctly, but the benefits, I think, would have been very limited on -- at the end just because of -- you wouldn't have been able to keep up keeping the sand out of it.

MR. BARR: Do you remember any people particularly involved in issues such as that or early board members, particularly those that might still be around? Any names that you might have, any of the current board members were original board members?

MS. FRASCH: I don't think any of those directors are living anymore.

MR. BARR: Arden came on in '74, didn't he, or when did you he come on?

MS. FRASCH: I would have to go look. I have it --

MR. BARR: But, I mean, he was there when you were hired, wasn't he?

MS. FRASCH: I don't think so.

MR. BARR: He said he was.


MS. FRASCH: Like I said, I'd have to go look.

MR. BARR: Okay, that's fine. We won't worry about it. But he's been on off and on --

MS. FRASCH: Yes, he has. Arden is actually one of our oldest directors.

MR. BARR: That's the sort of -- I'm looking for a couple other names if you have any, by any chance.

MS. FRASCH: Tom Higgins would be another --

MR. BARR: Who?

MS. FRASCH: Tom Higgins.

MR. BARR: I'm looking for names to other --

MS. FRASCH: Tom's been around a lot.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, Tom has been --

MR. BARR: And what town is he from, or area?

MR. JULESGARD: Over Naper area.

MR. BARR: Naper area?


MR. JULESGARD: He lives just into Keya Paha County.

MR. BARR: Do you remember any of the people who were particularly involved in the low-level nuclear waste controversy, either board or non-board, just people in the community that were actively involved?

MR. JULESGARD: Well, Jack Hinglehoff (phonetic) was one that I know they were involved a lot in that.

MR. BARR: And he's from? Butte?

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, and Tom also.

MR. BARR: Tom Higgins?

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, Higgins.

MS. FRASCH: You know, Larry was around then, but Larry --

MR. JULESGARD: Larry didn't seem like he was -- no, Larry never really was that involved. I know Jack and Tom did a lot of, you know, they were a lot more out in the public on things.

MR. BARR: Who in the community, other than -- either for or against, was particularly active in this general area?

MS. FRASCH: Ken Reiser (phonetic) was real --

MR. BARR: Who?

MS. FRASCH: Ken Reiser.

MR. BARR: Oh, that's right. I remember his name. Is Keith Jureg (phonetic) still around?

MS. FRASCH: Yes, Keith is still here in Butte.

MR. BARR: Here?

MS. FRASCH: Uh-huh.

MR. BARR: Where is Ken?

MS. FRASCH: Ken Reiser is just outside of Butte here also.

MR. BARR: Anything else -- oh, I was going to ask, was the NRD in any way officially involved in that process? I mean, did you have a -- any kind of role, like permits or anything that you needed to get involved in?


MR. BARR: Well, now at this point, it's just any kind of reflections that you would like to have on the NRD process or natural resources in general, either in this district, or in your case, in the other districts that you've been involved in?

MR. JULESGARD: I guess as far as NRDs in general, and just the -- and being associated with more than one of them, I really feel that the NRDs really do take an active role in groundwater management. I know we get throwed under the bus every once in a while for things, but I think, in general, all of the NRDs have not only water quality, but water quantity in mind in all of their things that they do. And then, just natural resources in general, just trying to make sure that, you know, because we do deal some with some sediment erosion complaints and we try and get those things mitigated and stuff. So the NRDs serve a real vital role in the state as far as all of the -- anything that's connected with the natural resources, be it soil erosion or water or groundwater or surface water. You know, our intention is to make sure that we keep this available for everybody.

MR. BARR: You've worked for three different NRDs. Do you have any thoughts on the variability between natural resource districts either in approach or organization or anything that you can --

MR. JULESGARD: Well, all of the ones that I've worked with all have their own, I guess, for lack of better terms, personality. And I think that all is kind of driven by the board and the number of board members. And a lot of that is driven by the manager of those districts. When I went out to the Upper Republican, they had just had a new manager, hadn't been there a long time, and so they were kind of a little bit -- there was some changing and things that were happening there. And you could tell that there was some stuff in the board, you know, things didn't always necessarily run quite as smooth as they could.

MR. BARR: They had their share of controversy, too.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, they had their share of controversies down there, because I was there just about the time the Kansas-Nebraska lawsuit started. So, there was a lot of unknown at that time, when I got there.

MR. BARR: Had there been much groundwater regulation up until then?

MR. JULESGARD: Oh, yeah. They had been -- they had had flow meters on for years before that, because they had already recognized the issues of declines in that area. And that's one of the things that I found rather interesting. The producers in that area, when they first come on, flow meters were, “Oh, my gosh, this is a terrible thing,” but when I was there, they would actually -- producers would actually call the office and say, “My system's going to be off for these three days. My flow meter isn't working. Can you get out there and fix it?” So, I mean, they -- you found out that it was more than a government mandate and a regulatory tool, that it could also be a tool for them to manage their water and be more efficient. So, yeah, there's --

MR. BARR: All three of the areas you've worked has had either up or downstream co-managers of the river involved. How's, then, the interrelationship between, say, the three NRDs in the Republican, the three in the Niobrara, or the Missouri?

MR. JULESGARD: The three in the Republican, I think before the Kansas-Nebraska lawsuit, they were pretty much really independent of one another, and they were always pointing at one another for if there was anything that was going on. But once the lawsuit got going and that, they really pulled together. Yeah, there's still a little bit of, well, troubles all run downhill, so the lower one always feels like they get the most problems.

MR. BARR: Is that the case here?


MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, you kind of feel that way sometimes, but, you know, in general, like I said, that I feel that they were really starting to work together when I left there. As far as, like, at the Lewis and Clark with the Papio-Missouri, there was always a good working relationship between those two districts. And, of course, a lot of that, I would attribute to, at the time, that was Vince Kramper was the NRC representative there, so I attribute a lot of that to Vince and (indiscernible), because he was always making sure that we knew what was going on in both areas. So, he kept them updated and us, too.

MR. BARR: Do you remember who was one of the original Niobrara representatives?

MS. FRASCH: Jim Cook from Mills.

MR. BARR: Is he still living?

MS. FRASCH: No, Jim's passed away.

MR. BARR: How long ago, do you know, roughly? Quite a while?

MS. FRASCH: Yes, it's been quite a while, probably five, six years or more.

MR. BARR: Yeah, I remember Jim. I used to work for the Commission at one point. He was on the Commission at that point. Just out of curiosity, who's been that role since Jim Cook?

MS. FRASCH: Dave Cavlicek (phonetic).

MR. BARR: Dave Havlicek?

MS. FRASCH: Cavlicek.

MR. BARR: From what district?

MS. FRASCH: Upper Niobrara White.

MR. JULESGARD: Upper Niobrara White.

MR. BARR: Okay. And have you had any particular joint operations or joint projects with the other two of any kind or get together occasionally, or anything of that nature?

MR. JULESGARD: We try and get together annually as far as trying to keep updated on what's going on. We do that, usually, more than one occasion. We try and do that at our fall conference, and then we also try and get together during the summer sometime and just try and get all the staff together so everybody can kind of get to know one another.

MR. BARR: Where is the cutoff, roughly, between the Middle and the Lower?

MR. JULESGARD: Just a little -- a couple miles, what, three miles -- no, it would be five miles west of Springview.

MR. BARR: Okay. At this point, do either of you have any observations on NRD? Since you've been here a while, you've apparently gotten along all right with --

MS. FRASCH: Uh-huh. (Indiscernible) working system.

MR. JULESGARD: Yeah, like I said, being involved in several, I mean, I've had -- I've been associated with, you know, I've been in the education, the I&E. I've worked with that group a lot. I've been a resource technician, so I've worked with a lot of different ones in the water, so I've worked with a lot of different staff across the whole state. And I think we all have the same goals in mind, how we get there sometimes takes a little different path, but overall, (indiscernible) pretty much the same.