NEBRASKA — Farmers in northeast Nebraska will have more allocated water usage amid extreme drought conditions.

On Thursday, a lengthy discussion about water allocation took place at the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District meeting.

The LENRD was considering a change to its water allocations set upon the district.

Back in the fall of 2022, the board of directors set up a 15-acre inch allocation. However, many landowners were requesting the use of more water, many saying the allocation put in place has been devastating for their yields.

“I think we need to be very thoughtful here…what kind of message we’re sending here to the public,” said Brian Bruckner, interim general manager. “We’re starting to get calls from folks who are very concerned about water supplies in their areas.”

In recent months, the LENRD and a majority of eastern Nebraska has been plagued with extreme and exceptional levels of drought.

This has an adverse effect on many in the area, including farmers who need to irrigate their crops.

A packed audience of farmers spoke out favor of changing the allocation. Jared Gubbels, a farmer west of Norfolk was one such person.

“We’re coming up on a very crucial time to decide these rules,” Gubbels said. “We don’t want to overdo this (irrigating) or run anybody out of water. We just need to know before it’s too late.”

While many made their case for a higher allocation, not everyone on the board approve of an increase. Director Melissa Temple questioned whether increasing the allocation during a drought was the right decision, saying more information was needed.

She also said some directors may have a conflict of interest in supporting a change.

“I know we all want to be good stewards, but we need to make this decision with the most education that we can,” Temple said. “I think that a lot of people on this board are producers and that gives you great insight, but also it creates conflicts of interest too. Your ethical responsibilities are for the whole district.”

Director Jerry Allemann made a proposal to increase the allocation from 15-acre inches to 20-acre inches.

Temple then proposed to table the decision, so the board could gather more information before increasing allowed usage.

This motion did not pass, falling in a 2-10 vote.

Voting in favor were directors Melissa Temple and Matt Steffen.

Voting against were directors Anthony Wisnieski, Jim Aschoff, Mark Burenheide, Mark Hall, Kris Loberg, Jay Reikofski, Roger Gustafson, Jerry Allemann, Chad Korth, and Scott Clausen.

The proposal to increase the allocation to 20-acre inches did pass on a 9-3 vote.

Voting for the proposal were directors Anthony Wisnieski, Jim Aschoff, Mark Burenheide, Mark Hall, Kris Loberg, Jay Reikofski, Roger Gustafson, Jerry Allemann, and Scott Clausen.

Voting in opposition were Melissa Temple, Chad Korth, and Matt Steffen.

This allocation applies to irrigation wells under the current 15-inch allocation.