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Newman Grove grads watch Shell Creek for years

June 22, 2018 GMT

Cody Nelson brushed aside any acclaim for his or Newman Grove High School’s Shell Creek Watershed Project work over the past 15 years during a Friday, June 15, news conference from a bridge spanning the creek northwest of Schuyler.

He pointed to others for Shell Creek being the first example of a stream being removed from the federal impaired waters list.

“All the farmers and landowners made it happen,” said the 2018 Newman Grove High graduate. He, along with his cousin Paden Nelson, spent many years as a member of the high school watershed project tracking water quality.

Shell Creek made history by being the first to be removed by being the first creek waterway in the nation to be removed from the impaired waters list that resulted from implementation of a comprehensive watershed management plan. Atrazine is a commonly used herbicide to kill weeds, but is linked to cancer in humans and is harmful to aquatic life.

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“We collected the data and made people aware of it,” he said matter-of-factly, adding natural resources districts and state and federal agencies were also heavily involved during the last 20 years. “I’m proud to be a part of getting the information out.”

During remarks to about 60 spectators, Paden Nelson said the students’ responsibilities included collection of water samples from six sites along the creek, analysis of the data and presentation to the local community.

“We’ve gathered 15 years of data,” Payton Nelson said.

The students who have participated in the watership project organized by Newman Grove Mark Seier and Gene Wissenburg now numbers more than 100 over the years.

“We had 22 students this year, more than half our high school,” she said. Students from Schuyler Central also participate in the water quality monitoring project in the Schuyler area.

Payton Nelson said she was really pleased to hear of all the progress that has been made since she began contributing to the project.

“The level of improvement seen in Shell Creek serves as a great case study on what a small group of concerned (residents) can do to reverse damage caused by human influence,” she said.

Marilyn Tabor of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, which has contributed state lottery funds to water quality projects such Shell Creek, said Friday that seeing students’ involvement in conservation efforts was uplifting for the future.

“Shell Creek is one of the shining stars of the trust’s water projects,” Tabor said before speaking to the crowd. The trust has been contributing to the watershed group’s efforts since 2004.

“It’s one of my favorite projects,” Tabor said.

Jim Osborn is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at jim.osborn@lee.net.