PANHANDLE PERSPECTIVES: Yonts Water Conference April 8, 2020 in Gering

The YONTS WATER CONFERENCE has been CANCELLED.  We are still exploring options to provide the North Platte Valley growers and public the information via a proposed virtual conference with pre-recorded sessions that will be placed online.   

More information on that as we progress.      

ALL Nebraska Extension activities have been cancelled until May 9th.  At that time re-evaluation of the COVID-19 situation will made.

Each spring, as the planting season approaches, brings fresh questions about irrigation water:

How much water will the mountain snowpack provide to the North Platte Valley? What’s the state of the irrigation infrastructure in the valley? What have we learned about the system in the past year? How does the complex system of dams, diversions, checks and canals work? Will groundwater irrigation regulations stay the same as last year?

Answers to these and other questions – as well as some fresh new questions – will be provided by presenters at the Yonts Water Conference, scheduled for April 8 in Gering. The spring water conference for the North Platte Valley will returns in April 2020 after a hiatus, named in honor of the late Dean Yonts, UNL Irrigation Specialist who helped start the event.

The 2020 conference, organized by a regional group of water stakeholders, will take place Wednesday, April 8, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the Gering Civic Center. There is no charge to attend and lunch will be provided, but pre-registration is a must for meal planning.

To register online, go to . To register by phone, call 308-632-1230.

In addition to outstanding speakers, there will be booths featuring local businesses, experts, and organizations.

More information is available at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center webpage,

The Yonts Water Conference is organized by the North Platte River Water for Ag Committee, made up of Extension, irrigation districts, NRD, agricultural producers, irrigation industry representatives, wildlife groups, and municipalities. The committee’s work, including the conference, is supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture grant.

The Yonts water conference is a good opportunity for anybody, including but not limited to irrigators, to learn more about where water comes from; how it developed over more than a century; the laws and regulations that govern its use; the infrastructure that delivers it; challenges; and the irrigation water supply outlook for 2020, according to several of the organizers.

Janeene Brown of Deines Irrigation at Gering said recent events in the valley, such as the tunnel collapse that cut water deliveries to Gering-Fort Laramie and Goshen irrigation districts, “really highlighted how much we sometimes take it for granted that our irrigation water is a given. The Yonts Water Conference is an exciting opportunity for ground and surface water users alike to learn about the current state of water in our area while gaining an understanding of how it all comes together.

“This conference will also provide ground and surface water producers the chance to hear of innovative options other producers are using that can help maximize production on their farm when something as critical as water becomes limited,” she said.

John Berge, General Manager of the North Platte Natural Resources District said: “Rebooting the Yonts Water Conference is critical as we face new challenges related to extreme weather, and the ongoing struggle to maintain and expand our agricultural economy in the face of those weather events or regulatory initiatives.”

“Anyone with even a passing interest in water will take something away from this event, but those large water users in the industrial or agricultural sectors will find valuable information and have access to subject matter experts in the field. I think that people will find the long term weather forecasts interesting, and forecasts for surface water and information about Integrated Management Planning water should be helpful to those as they make plans for the balance of 2020 and beyond.”

Added Robert Busch of Mitchell, irrigator and GFL Irrigation District Board member: “Any time you can educate yourself about water issues is always a good time. Everyday things change in the water situation – quality and quantity of water.” He said the list of topics is full of highlights: “With water, for me all issues are really important.”

Kevin Adams, Farmers Irrigation District General Manager, said the conference will have something for anyone interested in learning about this region’s water. “I believe a water conference of this magnitude, we can share how the water system works in the North Platte Valley, and it works for every human being who lives here. It feeds your underground water,” he said. “You’ll learn about snowpack levels, you’ll learn about how the systems work and numerous things that the public should be interested in – the quality and quantity of groundwater, every issue there is.”

The list of topics and presenters:

      North Platte Basin Spring Snowpack/Water Supply Forecast (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mills, Wyo.)

      Integrated Water Management Plans – Update (Nebraska Dept. of Natural Resources, Jennifer Schellpeper)

      Weather Outlook (Don Day, Day Weather)

      Groundwater Update (John Berge, North Platte NRD)

      What We Learned from the Goshen-Gering Ft. Laramie Tunnel Collapse (Panel of area growers)

      Film on North Platte River and North Platte Project (Film producer Becky McMillen)

      Surface Water Irrigation System - How It All Works (North Platte Valley Irrigation Districts)

      Goshen/Gering-Ft. Laramie Engineer Report (Brad Anderson, Engineer)