UNL Extension earns grant to help protect waterways from urban stormwater runoff

Mar 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Campus News, Issue, March 11, 2010

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Water – even stormwater – is taking center stage in Nebraska.

And, thanks to a grant awarded to UNL Extension, Nebraska’s lakes, rivers and ponds soon may get a little cleaner.

UNL Extension received a $544,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to increase education and research ways to protect the state’s waterways from urban stormwater runoff carrying sediment, fertilizers, automotive fluids and other substances, said Kelly Feehan, a UNL Extension Educator based in Columbus.

“It’s all about water,” Feehan said. “Water quality and quantity is a major focus in the state of Nebraska, and with urban areas growing there is increased focus on reducing the volume of urban stormwater and pollutants in stormwater.”

The grant, awarded in 2009 and extending through August 2012, focuses on extension education, classroom instruction and research.

The goal is to conserve water and improve water quality through an integrated approach to stormwater management and greenspace use in 10 Nebraska cities with populations of 10,000 to 50,000, Feehan said. The cities are Scottsbluff, North Platte, Lexington, Kearney, Grand Island, Hastings, Columbus, Norfolk, Fremont and Beatrice.

An extension educator will focus on developing informational materials and conducting educational outreach for community leaders, citizens, Master Gardener volunteers, 4-H youth and others.

The grant also will support a new curriculum on stormwater management for use in UNL’s landscape architecture and design classes, and research on installed rain gardens. Graduate teaching and research assistants will be hired to help, Feehan said.

Individuals working with Feehan include David Shelton, extension agricultural engineer at the Haskell Ag Lab in Concord; Thomas Franti, surface water management specialist in Lincoln; and Steve Rodie, landscape horticulture specialist in Omaha.

— By Lori McGinnis, IANR News Service

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