By Kansas Farm Bureau Columnist John Schlageck
John Redmond Reservoir has become the poster child for the reservoir sedimentation issue in Kansas. Since it was constructed, the reservoir has lost more than 40 percent of its capacity to sedimentation.
Located in Coffey County, John Redmond was built in 1964 to control flooding in the Neosho River Basin. The reservoir also provides water storage for municipal and industrial customers who contract with the state of Kansas.
Susan Metzger, policy and planning director at the Kansas Water Office (KWO) says sedimentation happens in all lakes, but at John Redmond it happens to be filling in quicker than anticipated.
Three years of drought have exacerbated the dwindling water supply in the reservoir. The primary concern remains the loss of storage for the downstream municipalities and industrial customers.
“We need to identify ways to improve storage conditions to meet the customers’ needs, especially if this drought were to extend over time,” Metzger told nearly 100 people attending a public information meeting in Burlington on Feb. 5.
In an effort to slow down the amount of sedimentation into John Redmond, watershed and stream bank stabilization initiatives have taken place upstream. The Kansas Water Office is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to reallocate a portion of the flood storage to water supply storage.
KWO is also asking for a two-foot permanent pool rise from 1,039 to 1,041 feet that may help meet water users’ demands for another 20-30 years. Even with these efforts, KWO understands John Redmond needs additional help to restore water storage capacity and meet water customers’ demands.
“We believe our most efficient and most practical alternative is to remove sediment through dredging at John Redmond,” Metzger said.
To supply future water demands, KWO projects 600,000 cubic yards of sediment will need to be removed annually. Doing so could create approximately 400-acre feet of water storage per year.
“Estimates project it will cost $6-15 per cubic yard for removal,” Metzger said. “This would amount to $6-8 million a year to remove sediment.”
The cost for the project will be paid for entirely by non-federal funds, she said.
The water office has funds to accomplish the preliminary planning phase, the development of the environmental impact statement and some preliminary design and engineering for disposal facilities.
“We’ve made the argument for this project,” Metzger said. “Now we’ll see what these proposals will show us about the realities of this dredging project.”
During the public comments, Glenn Fisher, Oswego mayor, expressed the sentiment of most people who live downstream from John Redmond and rely on the reservoir for drinking water and the operation of their municipalities.
“Whatever we need to do, dredging or raising the water level, do it,” Fisher said. “I want to emphasize the importance to us, because without the water we aren’t going to be able to maintain our communities. To me, this is more important than somebody fishing.”
Landowners and farmers expressed their concern that eminent domain will not be used to acquire land for sediment deposit. KWO promised such land will either be acquired through voluntary contribution of the property or through negotiated agreements between the landowner and the state including compensation for temporary use of the property.
“If you own land near the reservoir and are interested in learning more about the possibility of using your property for temporary sediment disposal, please contact KWO,” Metzger said.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.