Strategy developed to extend life of lake

Plan aims to help Clinton Reservoir, area water supply

Douglas County officials say they want to find ways to extend beyond 2030 the useful life of Clinton Lake, a major source of drinking water for the area.

“It’s important for us to become better educated about where the water comes from, where it goes and what happens to the lake in the process,” said County Commissioner Charles Jones.

A plan — the Upper Wakarusa Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy — has been designed to slow the flow of soil, waste and chemicals into the lake.

But commissioners said it also was important to talk with other area counties about the issues that affect the reservoir.

The lake is fed by the Wakarusa River and a series of streams, which make up the Upper Wakarusa Watershed. The watershed extends west into Shawnee, Osage and Wabaunsee counties.

Recently, commissioners for Douglas and Shawnee counties agreed to have Jones and Shawnee County Commissioner Ted Ensley meet to discuss the lake.

Jones said he and Ensley hadn’t had any meetings yet, but plan to do so in the upcoming weeks. He and Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney said it also will be important to meet with officials from Osage and Wabaunsee counties.

Lawrence and Douglas County have access to another major water resource — the Kansas River. But prolonging the life of Clinton Reservoir is a good idea, officials with the Kansas Water Office said.

There’s reasonable assurance Clinton Lake will be a water resource up through 2030, said Deb Baker, an environmental scientist with the Kansas Water Office.

“But by reducing the amount of silt, we can extend the life of the reservoir,” Baker said. “It’s possible to do if all the people in the watershed area surrounding the lake can come together and find common ground on the best way to protect it.”

By doing so, people also can work to address what is going into the lake as runoff, said Baker and Bob McDaneld, an environmental scientist with the Kansas Water Office.

McDaneld said the Upper Wakarusa Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy could improve the water quality and extend the life of Clinton Lake. But he noted the state isn’t in a position to make demands.

“Virtually all land decisions will be made at the local level,” he said.