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State recommends dredging of Redmond Reservoir

Published on -11/5/2013, 11:10 AM

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BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) -- State water officials are proposing a plan to dredge the John Redmond Reservoir in Coffey County that has been filling with silt for decades in a project that could serve as a model for handling other federal lakes in Kansas that have the same problem.

Besides offering recreation and flood protection, the 50-year-old reservoir on the Neosho River near Burlington supplies backup water to 14 communities in southeast Kansas. It also is the water source for two smaller lakes that feed cooling towers at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant.

The lake has lost about 1,000 surface acres and nearly half its total volume since it opened in 1964, mainly because of erosion along the Neosho River, which feeds into the lake, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/17IiPwK ).

Tracy Streeter, who heads the Kansas Water Office, said that with the sediment flowing into the lake at a rate of 749 acre-feet per year, a long-term solution is needed to preserve the reservoir.

The Water Office's Reservoir Advisory Committee recommended a plan last month to issue $25 million in bonds to fund a five-year project at the reservoir that would include $13.2 million for dredging, $4.5 million for land acquisition to dispose of the sediment, and $7.3 million for stream bank stabilization.

Galen Biery, general manager of the Cottonwood and Neosho River Basins Water Assurance District, said he would like to see more emphasis on preventive measures, rather than dredging.

"If dredging were a cheap and efficient methodology, it might be best," Biery said. "But it is a very expensive method to try and maintain the total storage in a reservoir."

Under the proposed funding plan, Biery said his district would be charged between $125,000 and $150,000 a year for its share of the payments to repay the bonds. Members of the district believe they already paid for their storage capacity and shouldn't be charged again to reclaim it, he said, adding that it would be difficult for some small communities in the district to pay the additional cost.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said he supports the dredging plan but he thinks it will be difficult to persuade the Kansas Legislature to approve spending for the project. The state used to budget about $6 million for similar projects but that program has not been funded in recent years, he said.

"For a lot of legislators, there is no water crisis now," Sloan said. "Therefore other spending or tax-cutting priorities have taken precedence. My belief is we need to convince them that investing before there is a crisis is the politically and economically responsible thing to do."

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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