A crowd estimated at 130 people attended an informational meeting hosted by the Middle Niobrara NRD in Valentine on Tuesday evening. Area landowners, city, county, state and federal representatives also participated in the almost 3 hour discussion. The main topic was excess water in the Cherry County and surrounding areas. The main area of concern seemed to be the southern 2/3rds of Cherry County including the refuge area.
Information about area historical water levels and data from several sources noted a more rapid rise over the last three years. The historical data shows the water level has been rising for many years. This has become a complicated issue with numerous agencies like the NRD, U.S Fish and Wildlife, NE Game and Parks and Nebraska Department of Transportation participating in the discussions. The rising water table has meant ranchers losing valuable hay and grazing land, interruptions in travel on highways meaning an economic loss to the area. County road repairs are continuing to take a toll on the county budget and resources for construction are harder to find. They have considered hiring outside road repair help.
The DOT continues to monitor the Highway 83 situation. Suggestions ranged from installing a traffic signal to possibly pumping some of the water. Refuge personnel presented information on how they manage water levels on refuge lakes.
The fact of the matter is that Mother Nature put the water there and she will have to remove it. There are temporary improvements that can be done at this time, but this situation will not go away over night. Moving forward, plans need to be in play to handle these increased levels.