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The reservoirs built in Kansas in the 1950s and 1960s are vital to our state for flood protection, recreation and water supply. The state of Kansas owns a percentage of storage in 13 of the federally-owned reservoirs. Over the years it has been evident the storage in John Redmond Reservoir has been depleting at a significantly higher sedimentation rate than projected by the federal government. The state recognized the need to address the high loss of storage and initiated a request for a reallocation of storage in 1996. Recently, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, approved the storage reallocation for implementation and today the increase in additional water storage was signed by the state of Kansas and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers – Tulsa District.
“While all Kansas reservoirs are important to our state, John Redmond Reservoir is a source of municipal and industrial supply as well as backup supply for the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant cooling lake,” said Governor Sam Brownback. “I appreciate the Kansas Water Office’s determination to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and see this two-foot pool rise allocation come to fruition.”
This much needed reallocation provides for a more equitable distribution of sediment across the flood, conservation and other pools in the reservoir as well as increases the storage available for water supply raising the lake level elevation from 1039 ft to 1041 ft permanently.
“We have been steadily losing our capacity to store water in the reservoir because it is silting in. It has reached the point where it is adversely impacting the state of Kansas’ ability to meet their water supply obligations,” said Colonel Richard Pratt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District commander. “I am pleased this was approved so that we can continue meeting the water supply needs and addressing the sediment accumulation rates at the reservoir with our partners in the Kansas Water Office.”
Another way to reduce sedimentation at the lake or increase storage is through streambank restoration projects. Many of these have been or are currently taking place along the Neosho and Cottonwood Rivers to help decrease the amount of new sediment delivered downstream to John Redmond, but these efforts cannot remedy the alarming sedimentation rate alone.
“The two foot pool rise at John Redmond will increase the state’s storage capacity by a little more than 17,000 acre feet,” said Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office Director. “The reallocation is a necessary and vital piece to ensuring the lake remains a viable water source. However, even with the reallocation, sediment will continue to accumulate unless dredging is done. This will be the first time a non-federal agency has attempted a major initiative such as this on a federal project.”
The past two years of drought have also placed a great deal of stress on Kansas water supply sources and as another way to regain the storage capacity loss, the Kansas Water Office plans to dredge the sediment in John Redmond through a phased approach beginning in 2014.
Lake restoration isn’t new to Kansas. In 2010, in partnership with the city of Horton, about one million cubic yards of sediment were dredged from Mission Lake in Brown County, Kan. Dredging of this lake, which is a small public water supply lake, has served as a pilot project for not only future small public water supply lakes, but many of the lessons learned can be applied to larger projects such as John Redmond Reservoir.