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City, NRD join forces in search of storm water funds

 


The city of Sidney and the South Platte Natural Resources District are working together for grants to fund storm water management projects.

Galen Wittrock with the South Platte NRD spoke with the city council Tuesday night about grants that could possibly pay for a large portion of future storm water solutions.

"This is a continuing project that the NRD and the city of Sidney has been working on," Wittrock said, “addressing the east Sidney watershed drainage issues."

The NRD presented grant applications through the Nebraska Environmental Trust as well as section 319 of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

The grant applications asking for $1 million from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and $700,000 from section 319 of NDEQ were approved at Tuesday's meeting. If these applications pass, matching funds of $1.2 million would be supplied by a combination of the city of Sidney and the South Platte NRD.

"The NRD will be a co-sponsor of this grant," Wittrock said.

The city wouldn't necessarily have to take the matching funds out of its budget.

"What we're hoping for is we're also applying through the state revolving loan fund," Wittrock said. "Which is also through the NDEQ and that amount would be used for match for the NET and 319. So what we're hoping for is that $1.2 million would be through the state revolving loan fund."

Of course, this all depends on if the grants are successful, Wittrock added.

"But we do have a little bit of money through the sales tax," said Sidney mayor Wendall Gaston.

Wittrock also added that the city was under no contract to go through with plans attached to the grants, if the funding sources didn't work out.

"It's like any time with grants, if the money does fall through, it doesn't mean that we're obligated to this," Wittrock said.

City councilman Mark Nienhueser clarified that money received through the revolving loan fund would have to be paid back. Wittrock agreed but assured the council that this funding would come at a low interest rate.

"The advantage of the revolving loan fund is not only that it's very cheap borrowed money," said city manager Gary Person. "But they give you a lengthy period of time in which to repay it."

This will relieve some of the initial financial burden on both entities contributing to the project, Person added.

"It really works very well," Person said. "Most communities fund their waste water projects through revolving loan funds."

Taking care of the wastewater problems on the east side of the city will make this area more enticing to possible developers interested in involvement with the east Sidney development, Person added.

"It's a project that needs to coincide with the development projects that we're bringing forward," Person said. "It's a great way for us to address it and a cost effective way for us to address it and to provide some answers in the downstream issues that will occur."

The plans for waste water management recommend using the natural lay of the land and trying to work with nature instead of against it.

"It's bigger than just going after storm water issues that have kind of haunted us for some time, historically" Person said.

These things get attention after big storms and are then are put on hold afterward, he added.

"This gives us a road map and a plan to get it addressed," Person said. "And with all the new developments, we have also a responsibility as a city government to work hand in hand with the NRD to try to get this addressed."

These storm water management programs are conservation minded, Wittrock said.

"I think this is awesome," Gaston said. "I think it's a pleasure for our board to be working with your board to really make a major accomplishment with the problem."

The projects funded with this grant, if approved, will focus on incorporating water quality features into the watershed, according to reports attached to the grant application. These include water quality ponds with slow drawdown outlets, stair step bio-swales in roadside ditches and other drainage ways and low impact design for proposed developments. This plan will also seek to reduce pollutants in area water.

This report was prepared for the Joint East Sidney Watershed Authority by Olsson Associates. It includes recommendations for water quality improvements and ways to construct to reduce pollutants.

"A bioswale is a densely vegetated shallow channel that slowly conveys water downstream," according to the report. This will remove sediments and pollutants and clean the water, the report says.

 

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