Mayor Eyes $6M Plan to Drain, Dredge Lake Mitchell

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Posted February 13, 2018

For years, a group of dedicated volunteers has gathered in a cramped meeting room at the Mitchell Recreation Center trying to achieve what often feels like an insurmountable task.

Those devoted Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee volunteers may finally have an answer.

According to Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey, Omaha-based water resource engineers are fine-tuning their pitch to improve the water quality at the algae-riddled lake. And it could cost a lot less, at least initially, than some expected when Fyra tossed out proposals of around $30 million to $80 million.

Toomey said Fyra is crafting a plan that could total approximately $6 million to dredge the bottom of Lake Mitchell — scooping up the muck and the mire of the lake to provide for a cleaner lake floor. As Fyra determined in its preliminary research, algae-feeding phosphorus is leaching up from the sediment at the bottom of the lake.

So how much needs to be dredged? Toomey is seeking an answer. He authorized a mapping effort of the lake for approximately $18,500 to determine exactly how much lake sludge would need to be dredged.

And Toomey hopes it won't quite cost the early estimate of $6 million for the first major restoration effort.

"I think, and I hope anyway, when that mapping is done, we're going to come in, I think a lot less than $6 million," Toomey said this week.

There is, as usual, a catch.

Toomey said the plan to clean the lake would be faster and more efficient, as he understands it, if it were drained. The catch? There would be no Lake Mitchell for as few as nine months.

"I think the first thing that's going to be proposed to the City Council is probably going to be the dredging," Toomey said. "Which, you know, they said they could do in less than one year — do it in the winter months — from Labor Day until Memorial Day."

The next Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meeting is 4 p.m. Tuesday. And although no agenda had been released for the meeting as of Friday afternoon, the meetings are typically held in the Mitchell Recreation Center. After the committee touches base, the plan will ultimately require City Council review and approval.

Toomey's also against the idea of seeking another opinion.

At a January public forum, local businessman Roger Musick asked Fyra representatives if they would provide the city with the names of other companies that do similar work. Fyra declined to share their names of their competitors publicly.

But Toomey doesn't see the need for an extra opinion, citing an assortment of studies that have been conducted in the past.

"I mean, how long are we going to go out and get opinions," Toomey said. "We've been getting opinions for I don't know how many years now."

Source: The Daily Republic