Educational Assistance

Educational Assistance

Water Festivals, Contests, and Camps

Water Festivals, Contests, and Camps
Water Festivals, Contests, and Camps
The Upper Big Blue NRD sponsors / co-sponsors such annual educational and informational events as Range and Land Judging FFA Contests, Water Jamboree, Earth Jamboree, Groundwater Festival, NARD ACE Camp, and Envirothon. 
Each year, the NRD reaches out to provide quality programming through public events, field days, and seminars, as well as one-on-one communication in the role as guest speakers at schools, service clubs and corporate gatherings. 
Issues concerning reduced tillage, limited nitrogen application, irrigation scheduling, soil sampling, and groundwater contamination are just a few of the in-depth topics that the NRD staff discusses with district citizens.

FFA Project Fund

FFA Project Fund
FFA Project Fund
The Upper Big Blue NRD is committed to assisting FFA organizations throughout the district and bordering NRDs.  In recent years, these FFA chapters included Osceola, Superior, Hampton, Fillmore Central (McCool Junction), High Plains (Polk), Centennial (Utica), Geneva, Milford and Schickley.  Assistance consisted of addressing the FFA organizations through public speaking tours and development of class projects. 
Financial assistance is also given on an annual basis through the Upper Big Blue NRD FFA Project and Natural Resources Practicum Scholarship Funds.  These funds are awarded to FFA chapters in need of support for special projects and scholarships for state and national FFA events.

FFA projects may also qualify for grants through the NRD's Educational Capital Projects Fund (below).

Burke Scholars

Burke Scholars
Burke Scholars
The family of Raymond A. Burke established this scholarship in his memory for the benefit of young men and women interested in pursuing careers in natural resources related fields. Mr. Burke was a land improvement contractor and farmer with very strong interests in the management of conservation and educating young people. He served for 40 years on the elected boards of the Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District. From time to time, donations memorializing other individuals have been added to the Raymond A. Burke Scholarship Fund. The Upper Big Blue NRD administers two scholarships awarded annually in the amount of $2,000 each. 

Full details at

Educational Capital Projects Fund (ECAP)

Educational Capital Projects Fund (ECAP)
Educational Capital Projects Fund (ECAP)
The purpose of ECAP is to create, develop, or enhance natural resources related educational capital projects that create experiential learning environments and opportunities for District citizens.

Grant applications are due May 1 of each year. Awardees will be notified in June. You can apply online or print and return this downloadable application.
To qualify for the Educational Capital Fund Program (ECAP) educational/conservation projects must be physically located, constructed, and maintained within the Upper Big Blue NRD boundary.  These educational capital projects are generally constructed on school property, however can be located elsewhere in the NRD boundary if there is a more suitable eco-system which again is determined on a case-by-case basis for funding determination by the board of directors.
This fund is for capital items only, deemed to have educational/conservation value, and determined worthy of funding on a case-by-case basis by Upper Big Blue NRD.  (This is not a scholarship fund for individual/group of students).    
Examples of such projects include, but are not limited to greenhouses; commercial and botanical gardens/vegetative learning plots; beekeeping/honey production equipment; rain/flood/dam/erosion/wind simulators; interactive and hands-on exhibits; educational learning displays/pods; digital/electronic equipment/devices; and research/demonstration equipment, etc.
Funding Parametric
If the total project cost is $1,000 or less, then the cost-share may be 100% of the actual cost.  If the total project cost is greater than $1,000, then the cost-share may be $1,000 + 5% of the total cost not to exceed $10,000 (refer to funding scale on page 5 of the application).
Funds Available to Cooperators
  • Maximum Payment from NRD Funds:  $10,000.00 (labor costs excluded)
  • Minimum Payment from NRD Funds:   $100.00 (labor costs excluded)
  • State Cost-Share:  None
  • Federal Cost-Share:  None

Project GROW

Project GROW
Project GROW
In 2008, the City of York purchased 400 acres of farm ground east of the city. The property was developed into what is now the City of York Wellfield. In the summer of 2017, the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District approached the City of York with an idea for improving soil health which would in turn protect the city’s drinking water: Project GROW (Growing Rotational crops On Wellfield).
Establishing Goals
The goals are to improve soil health, increase soil carbon, erosion control, non-leaching of nitrogen into the water table, and increasing water holding capacity in the soil, all culminating to protect York’s water quality at the wellfield.  York would become the model and leader for other cities to follow by establishing the York Wellfield Pilot Program/Project GROW.

Measuring Success—Objectives
As goals provide the direction, the following objectives will pinpoint the destination for this project.  The goals become the catalyst for three types of identifiable objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound:
  1. Awareness: To have an effect on the awareness of City of York Citizens; specifically, to increase their understanding of the importance of how cover/rotational crops planted atop the city wellfield can sustain both water quality and soil health that correlates to sustaining citizens’ health (60-percent of citizens within 24 months). 
  2. Acceptance: To have an effect on the acceptance of cities to model the efforts of York as being an early adopter and lead influencer; specifically, to increase interest in other cities across the NRD to plant cover/rotational crops atop their city wellfields.  (Two cities to adopt the program within 48 months inside the Upper Big Blue NRD).  The NRD would possibly develop a cost-share program for these cities culminating from the success of the York Wellfield Pilot Program.
  3. Action: To have an effect on the action of municipalities in viewing York as a knowledgeable leader in wellfield conservation and environmental educational efforts; specifically, to empower York as an authority to influence and change behavior for other cities to adopt similar wellfield programs across Nebraska (two cities to adopt the program within 60 months outside the Upper Big Blue NRD). 
The proposed timeline is 5 years—Summer/Fall 2017-2021:
  • Summer 2017 (Year 1)—Collect soil health data; prepare the site for cover crop planting.  The fall of Year 1 will be planted to Rye. 
  • Spring 2018 (Year 2)—Rye harvested; plant 16 species cover crop mix.
  • Spring 2019 (Year 3)—Field Peas planted; plant 16 species cover crop mix after harvest of peas.
  • Spring 2020 (Year 4)—Field Corn planted; plant Rye cover crop after corn harvest.  Perimeter of corn field will be planted with pumpkins to ward off raccoons.
  • Spring 2021 (Year 5)—Soybeans planted; plant Barley or Wheat after soybean harvest.  A hay cutting schedule will also be included with specific plantings.
Project Funding & Estimated Costs/Revenue
All Cash crops will be non-GMO and non-Treated Seed.  No insecticides or fungicides will be used.  The NRD is pursuing grant opportunities to assist in the cost associated with start up and maintenance of the project. 
The City of York will provide the land and costs related to farming operations and retain the income through the 2021 growing season.  Scott Gonnerman will serve as both a consultant and custom planter/harvester.
Dan Leininger, NRD water conservationist, serves as the liaison between the city and NRD, supervising the care of the site. 

Nebraska Water Leaders Academy

Nebraska Water Leaders Academy
Nebraska Water Leaders Academy
The Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District will sponsor one individual per year to attend the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy. The purpose of this sponsorship is to provide training to those who may eventually serve on the NRD board of directors or in another water leadership capacity.
  • The sponsorship will be provided to any district resident (non NRD employee) with interest in attending. It is not restricted to those working in natural resources or land management.
  • If there is funding from another source (such as an employer) for a participant, it is recommended that those options be utilized first.  
  • Each applicant must have a board member recommendation in order to be considered for the sponsorship.
  • The application for the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy will also be the application used for the NRD sponsorship (includes a one-page description of why you want to attend the program, a resume, and a letter of recommendation).
  • Applications to the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy are due by December 1 (but may be submitted at any time earlier). Early application is preferred as the cohort may fill up. Applications for the NRD sponsorship should be submitted by September 1 so that the candidates may be discussed and voted upon at the September or October executive committee and board meeting. When an applicant has been approved for the sponsorship from the NRD, it is their responsibility to submit their application to the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy. Approval from the NRD for the sponsorship does not guarantee acceptance into the Water Leaders Academy. 
  • For consideration for the NRD sponsorship, please submit your application materials to

Cost and Responsibilities

  • The total cost of attendance of the Leaders Academy is $2,000, which includes lodging and meals. The application cost is $500 (this amount goes toward the $2,000 fee). Additional costs include travel related expenses.
  • The NRD will fund 75 percent of the cost of attending the Water Leaders Academy ($1,500) but will not pay for travel.
  • The program includes six 1.5-day sessions in a variety of locations across the state. To receive the NRD sponsorship funds, the selected applicant must attend at least five of the sessions.
  • The NRD sponsorship funds will be available as a reimbursement at the completion of the program.
  • The selected applicant is expected to give a brief presentation to the board upon completing the Water Leaders Academy.
  • If the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy class is full, the applicant may be asked to delay entry until the following year. The NRD sponsorship would remain available to the candidate for a later entry.