It's no secret that the reservoirs of eastern Kansas, built half a century and more ago for flood protection, water supply and recreation, are facing serious problems.
The most serious of those problems is sedimentation or "silting in" from the inflow of soil and residue into the lake, resulting in a sediment layer on the bottom of the lake that reduces storage – in some cases significantly.
When the reservoirs were built in the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave each of them an estimated life span. That life span has been significantly shortened by sediment that has built up more quickly than the engineers anticipated. The state owns a percentage of storage in each of the 13 federally-owned reservoirs in Kansas.
John Redmond Reservoir, a source of city residential and industry supply for several eastern Kansas cities, is also a backup water supply for Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant's cooling lake. It has been silting in at a rate considerably higher than forecast by the Corps.
In recognition of that fact, the state made a request in 1996 to increase the amount of storage allocated to the lake by raising the allocated level two feet – making the lake level allocation 1041 feet as opposed to 1039 feet. This year, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, approved that request.
Reservoir has faced decreasing water storage capacity
"We have been steadily losing our capacity to store water in the reservoir because it is silting in. It has reached the point where we are starting to see an impact on our obligations to the state of Kansas' water supply," said Colonel Michael Teague, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "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."
The Kansas Water Office has also been working with a number of partners to reduce sedimentation at the lake 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.
"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.