Costs Continue To Rise As Lake Dredging Delayed

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Posted March 16, 2020

Kiesa Kay
Special to The Gardner News
The spillway needs work, and in addition, Gardner Lake residents have expressed concerns for more than 15 years about dredging the lake, which involves an additional action plan and action steps. Although the City of Gardner owns the lake, most residences are in the county.
“DWR regulations do not address dredging,” said Terry Medley, water structures program manager with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “Our jurisdiction is limited to the entire dam embankment, appurtenant works, and the original reservoir capacity. Dredging of accumulated silt is not under our purview as long as the previous are not affected. DWR only addresses issues that affect the functioning of the dam and/or public safety.”
Since water in reservoirs tends to be still, bits of sand, rock, dirt, and other material, called sediment, sink to the bottom. With the passage of time, this sediment builds up, greatly reducing the total amount of water in the reservoir. Dredging improves water quality and increases the amount of water in the lake. City staff does not have any current cost estimates for dredging work, but the 2004 sedimentation survey included cost estimates ranging from $627,750 to $1,377,500. Dredging analysis looked to be under way in 2004, but the actual work was not complete.
“We had all of the dredging equipment to do the project at that time, even had worked out arrangements of a nearby land owner where we could place the dredge silt,” said Dave Penny, of the Aquatics Group.
In 2017, media reported that the city anticipated about 60,000 cubic yards of sediment would be removed from the lake with a funding level of $280,000, and additional sediment would be removed as funds allow. Once again, the work did not occur.
“Due to additional siltation, but especially increases of trees and vegetation in the lake, the cleaning out of the lake probably has to be reevaluated after these 15 years,” Penny said. “It might be easier to clean most of the silt out with big, long reach backhoes and trucks than a dredge. In either case, it is technically possible, and we as dredgers or an excavating contractor could probably do it.”

“We are continuing to work to ensure that the integrity of the spillway, dam, and Gardner Lake is being preserved,” said Shute. “And no, we have no interest in selling the lake, or turning it into a mudhole. We would like to partner with Gardner Lake residents to dredge the lake… The city – and our citizens – cannot reasonably be expected to exclusively bear the cost of dam and spillway repair and dredging.”
– Schute

The town has grown from 3,000 in 1990 to 22,000 in 2020, and the needs have grown accordingly. The city has looked at multiple options for financing lake maintenance and repairs. Some options available to federal lakes have not been available to Gardner Lake. Although Gardner Lake originated as a WPA project, it has become a city, rather than state or federal, lake. James D. Bell, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, shared that they are available only for work on federal dams, and they are not set up to provide assistance to non-federal dams.
“We are continuing to work to ensure that the integrity of the spillway, dam, and Gardner Lake is being preserved,” said Shute. “And no, we have no interest in selling the lake, or turning it into a mudhole. We would like to partner with Gardner Lake residents to dredge the lake… The city – and our citizens – cannot reasonably be expected to exclusively bear the cost of dam and spillway repair and dredging.”
Many Kansas reservoirs have encountered the same set of challenges that face Gardner Lake, and it often takes coordinated, caring work to confront and resolve these concerns.
“Much the same thing is happening to many similar lakes across our state and region. Because a large proportion of them were built during the early to middle part of the last century, there are now widespread common problems developing in terms of age-related deterioration and particularly as they relate to the increasingly adverse effects of nutrient enrichment (lower water quality) and sedimentation (loss of water storage capacity),” Campbell said. “Back then less thought was probably given to the importance of maintaining our lakes since much less was known at the time about how long they could be expected to last. At present public funding is insufficient to effectively address what are in many cases very expensive fixes, and of course such needs are multiplied across the state.”
Toxic algae blooms can harm lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, and prevention can occur through nutrient remediation and sediment removal.
Jude Kastens, research associate professor with Kansas Biological Survey, emphasized the need for maintenance.
“Not that there is any solace in this observation, but know that you’re not alone as a community with a lake undergoing natural wear and succession that only diligent (and often expensive) maintenance can counter,” Kastens said. “We built all these lakes, now they’re just trying to integrate into the environment.”
The Gardner Lake Association will meet at 8:30 a.m. on March 28 at the Gardner Senior Center, 128 E. Park. Public Works Director Michael Kramer will speak at that meeting.

Source: gardnernews.com