Sediment's a growing problem in Kansas lake and reservoirs

Published online: Oct 24, 2011 News Michael Pearce - The Wichita Eagle
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John Redmond Reservoir averages just 6 feet deep.

The lake, which supplies water to several Kansas towns and the Wolf Creek nuclear plant, now sits with only about 58 percent of its original capacity.

The rest is goo.

From the smallest farm pond to the largest reservoirs, all Kansas lakes are slowly filling with dirt. Sediment, the simple mixture of water and dirt, is considered one of Kansas' largest environmental concerns by some experts.

Currently about 60 percent of Kansans get their water from lakes and that number is expected to grow.

Kansas experts say no simple solutions are in sight.

Dredging a large reservoir could cost $1 billion in tax dollars. Building a new one - even if the state could meet all of the environmental regulations - could cost much more and probably take at least 20 years from initial planning to completion.

Problems are already at hand. Consider:

-- At Toronto Reservoir kayaks are now available at Cross Timbers State Park because much of the lake's upper end is too shallow for motor boats.

-- Tuttle Creek Reservoir, more than 43æpercent filled in, holds enough sediment to totally fill Cheney Reservoir.

-- Sediment is up to 20 feet deep at Perry Reservoir. Once-popular boat ramps now lead to forests of 35-foot-tall trees where sediment has long replaced water. Perry's upper end holds about 100 million cubic yards of sediment.

-- Sedimentation is feeding the growth of toxic blue-green algae that caused more than a dozen lakes to be closed to swimming, boating and water skiing this summer. The algae killed some pets and forced water departments to spend more money to purify the water.

-- Most of Kansas' major reservoirs were built with 100-year lifespans. Many are now 50 to 60 years old.

The Kansas Water Office, charged with long-term planning for future drinking water supplies, ranks the problem on par with the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer because it so threatens the long-term quality and quantity of our water.


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