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Kansas, feds reach deal on Redmond Reservoir

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- State and federal officials have agreed to sharply increase the capacity of an eastern Kansas reservoir that provides water for the cooling lake at a nearby nuclear power plant.

Kansas signed a deal with the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers on Thursday to raise the capacity at the federally owned John Redmond Reservoir by nearly 30 percent, the Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/17E1Gz7) reported.

The reservoir southeast of Emporia is 40 percent silted in, Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said, and fell to about 50 percent of capacity last year because of the drought.

The reservoir was able to provide water to the cooling lake at Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant, Streeter said, but the low level created concerns. Westar Energy, which provides electricity to nearly 225,000 customers in the Wichita area, owns 47 percent of the power plant.

The agreement signed Thursday increases the reservoir's elevation by 2 feet, raising the number of gallons available in storage from 16 billion to 22 billion.

"That will help mitigate the effects of a drought," Streeter said.

The reservoir currently is 13 to 14 feet above normal, and the corps is temporarily allowing it to operate at the higher level, Streeter said.

To achieve the increased storage, the reservoir's allowed conservation pool level will be increased while its flood level will be lowered. Water for Wolf Creek's cooling lake is pulled from the conservation pool.

The second phase of increasing Redmond's capacity is to start dredging the silt from the reservoir and strengthening the banks of the Neosho River to reduce the flow sediment.

While the state has about $1 million to pay a firm to design the dredging work, Streeter said his office will ask the Legislature to approve $25 million for the project.

The state hopes to begin dredging in 2014, he said.

After decades of silt slipping into the water, many of the state's lakes and reservoirs need to have sediment cleaned out, Streeter said.

The state restored a lake in 2010 on a smaller scale, state officials said, when it worked with Horton to remove about 1 million cubic feet of sediment out of Mission Lake in Brown County.