Archive for Monday, September 20, 2010

Football goalpost, classroom chair and bike among items found as Potter Lake is dredged

Selvine Calix, who works for Stream, Lake and Wetland Solutions of Kansas City, Mo., works a small dredger on Thursday  that helps take the silt out of Potter Lake on the Kansas University campus. The silt is pumped into a giant bag that holds the sediment until it’s trucked away.

Selvine Calix, who works for Stream, Lake and Wetland Solutions of Kansas City, Mo., works a small dredger on Thursday that helps take the silt out of Potter Lake on the Kansas University campus. The silt is pumped into a giant bag that holds the sediment until it’s trucked away.

September 20, 2010


Lake dredging underway on KU campus

Potter Lake on the KU campus is getting cleaned for the second time in its history. Among the mud and plants found while cleaning was a piece of an old football goal post. Enlarge video

A muddy classroom chair, car floor mat and bike were among the recovered objects sitting along the shores of Potter Lake last week.

Nearby, crews were working to suck up thousands of cubic feet of sediment that had deposited in the pond during the past 50 years. The $125,000 dredging project, which began several weeks ago, is intended to restore health and beauty to one of Kansas University’s most iconic landmarks.

The project might also help answer the decades-old question of what exactly lies at the bottom of Potter Lake.

Leading the effort to pull mud and lost treasures out of Potter Lake is Mark Hannah, a project manager for Stream, Lake and Wetland Solutions, the company working on the project.

Hannah is also a 1971 KU graduate, who swears he isn’t looking for anything in particular.

“I have nothing prized or condemning in there,” he said.

On Thursday morning, Hannah’s crews came across what many suspected they would find.

At first the workers thought they had run over one of their hoses at the bottom of the lake. Upon closer inspection they realized it could be nothing other than a goal post.

Over the years, a few have been rumored to have disappeared into Potter Lake.

“Other than that we really haven’t found anything of any significance,” said Jim Modig, director of design and construction management at KU. “Most all of it has been branches and sticks.”

The lake, which will turn 100 next year, has been dredged only one other time in its history. In that instance, the lake was drained first. This time around the process is a little less intrusive.

“It’s the arthroscopic version of dredging,” Hannah said.

Mark Hannah of Stream, Lake and Wetland Solutions of Kansas City, Mo., tends to a giant bag full of mud. The bag is 100 feet long and holds silt dredged from Potter Lake.

Mark Hannah of Stream, Lake and Wetland Solutions of Kansas City, Mo., tends to a giant bag full of mud. The bag is 100 feet long and holds silt dredged from Potter Lake.

Filtering the water

Last week, crews were operating a small boat, which held a piece of equipment that Hannah calls a snow blower on steroids. Using 1,200 gallons of water a minute, that equipment chews up the sediment off the bottom of the pond. The silt is then sucked up into hoses and pumped to giant bags, which sit in a catch basin below the lake’s north side.

The liquid in the bags is injected with a polymer that separates the sediment from the water. To help speed the process, workers smack the bags with large sticks.

Crystal clear water leaches from the bag and into the catch basin. That water is returned to the lake.

The whole process is to restore the pond’s natural depth and to remove nutrients that have washed into the pond over the last half-century.

In recent years, seaweed-looking plants called coontail overcrowded the lake and green, grainy watermeal covered the surface.

During summer 2009, the lake reached a crisis point. Heavy rains led to a burst in plant growth, which sucked oxygen from the water. As a result, hundreds of fish died.

Student effort

The restoration of the lake is in large part due to the efforts of the Potter Lake Project, a student group that has rallied around preserving the lake.

A year ago, the students were holding cleanup days, bribing other students with food to get up early on Saturdays to use pitchforks to clear the lake of its mountainous amounts of vegetation.

“It was a lot of manual free labor,” said Matthew Nahrstedt, a KU architecture student who is co-president of the Potter Lake Project.

While the students had an end goal of dredging the lake, the group anticipated having to wait years before raising the money needed to do it.

But last spring, funding from KU’s Student Senate Finance Committee, the Office of the Chancellor and KU Endowment allowed the project to move forward. Another $200,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided money to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff coming from Jayhawk Boulevard.

“It’s a dream,” Nahrstedt said.

Already, the north side of the lake has cleared of watermeal and more is expected to die after the first freeze. By spring, the lake should look like many people remember it — clear and beautiful.

“It unfortunately has been something to walk by, but we really feel this is a unique part of KU. Not a lot of campuses have a natural landmark like we do,” Nahrstedt said. “And we need to protect that.”

The dredging should be finished in the next two weeks. In all, 5,000 cubic yards of dirt are expected to be removed from the lake.

The dirt, which sits drying in giant bags, will be used for topsoil or backfill.

But before that happens, Modig said someone might want to take a metal detector over it.

He suspects they might find a few class rings or even a diamond one.


Bill Lee 7 years ago

They should dredge Clinton Lake next so we can have better tasting water again.

frank mcguinness 7 years ago

Well Kent, That would only cost hundreds of millions of dollars so it is not really feasible. If my knowledge is correct the same issue is occuring at lake perry and they will just decommission the lake in the next 10 or so years.

Kyle Reed 7 years ago

Imagine if this story had nothing to do with how "real" you envision the football team to be. Oh don't have to imagine. Try to stay on topic einstein.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years ago

What kind of satisfaction do you get from comments like that?

randerson 7 years ago

Hello Akreed and KUprestidigitator,

Back in the day when Glen Mason was coaching we beat Oklahoma and threw the goal post in...1992 I believe. I got the T-shirt "$&#@ Oklahoma" which was not my best decision but memorable. Also, this program just went to the Orange bowl recently and won against a #17 team with freshmen at QB and RB.

It is a treat to hear students organizing and getting funds to preserve and enhance the campus after a recently bad recession.

formerfarmer 7 years ago

"Fish died due to lack of oxygen." How can we blame BP for that.

notajayhawk 7 years ago

THAT'S where I left that goalpost! Whew - I was afraid it accidentally went out with the trash.

Andrew Boyd 7 years ago

i know they wont find at least three goal posts. the cross bar from the nebraska upset, an upright from the iowa state game the year we went to the orange bowl and the upright that ended up in the kansas river

lounger 7 years ago

This is cool! I wonder how deep it was before dredging-and how deep it will be after dredging. Ive seen some pretty big fish in this old pond...

Mark Jakubauskas 7 years ago

Based on measurements by the Kansas Biological Survey, it was about 13 feet at its deepest before dredging. We estimated, based on coring, that there was about 18-24 inches of sediment on the bottom. The dredging is to remove accumulated nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) as much as it is to remove the silt.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years ago

A goal post, a chair, a car mat, and a bike? There's gotta be more than that in there...

nobody1793 7 years ago

I hope they don't dredge up Ol' Man Potter.

H_Lecter 7 years ago

It would have been nice to have had some warning that they were dredging the lake. I'll be out of the country... for a while.

TheOriginalCA 7 years ago

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Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

I was a student at KU in the middle 1970s, and I remember a rumor going around that the last time that Potter Lake was dredged, the remains of a Ford Model T was discovered!

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

Well, I guess that's not so amazing. When I was a kid we lived on a farm that had a family junkyard in the pasture. I went through it years ago and found the remains of 3 Model Ts, all of which were convertibles, no sedans.

One thing of interest was that one of them was the old pre 1913 style which didn't have a door on the driver's side - just an indentation as though there was one.

emaw 7 years ago

I guess they still haven't found the offense for the football team!

BruceWayne 7 years ago

or the "warning:low bridge" sign...

Shane Rogers 7 years ago

I can just imagine seeing a bunch of people hitting bags of mud with sticks. What a great way to get paid. ;-)

Mark Jakubauskas 7 years ago

The sediment builds up on the inside surface of the bags, and restricts flow of the water, like a filter getting clogged. Hitting the bags with sticks - and you'll also see them walking on them - dislodges that build-up and allows the water to flow freely.

Shane Rogers 7 years ago

Yes, I realize that. I was just saying that it would be awesome to get paid for doing so.

Danimal 7 years ago

Didn't they find most of an old car in Potter's Lake the last time they dredged it? I love Potter's Lake and I'm so glad that they've finally taken it upon themselves to clean it up. A lot of people just see a small old fire-control reservoir, but there's a lot of history in that lake. Something like 22 or 24 people have drowned in Potter's Lake during its lifetime. Someone should write a book about the lake.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

Um, yes, about the history of the lake,,, But this is not the forum to discuss that topic.

redhollyhocks 7 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

1029 7 years ago

So they didn't find a 5' x 8' Uhaul cargo trailer filled with musical instruments? Very interesting.....

Kris_H 7 years ago

It's only 13 feet deep, really? Is that before or after they get all the sediment out of it?

That's not very deep. I don't think it would hide a car all that well, or a Uhaul trailer either for that matter.

I never paid to much attention to the puddle except during the winter, when it was frozen and fun to slide out onto. Allegedly. :)

Brad Maestas 7 years ago

13 feet was before the dredging and with 18 to 24 inches of sediment, it would be about 15 feet deep afterward. It makes a great backdrop. I shot my little sister's senior pictures there this spring and they came out wonderfully. It's great to hear that a group of students took it upon themselves to maintain this iconic campus landmark.

blindrabbit 7 years ago

What are they going to do with all of the whitefish that have accumulated over the years?

riverdrifter 7 years ago

Ochinee, you need to move on as well.

riverdrifter 7 years ago

I think I'll bankline a little flathead out of the river and toss it in Potter. That'll take care of all the tropical fish dumped in there -and make a big flathead in a hurry!

randerson 7 years ago

We destroyed the goal posts after beating Oklahoma October 24th 1992 and swarmed to Potters Lake where it was dropped. It was a great day but hope it was not the cause of the algal bloom.

randerson 7 years ago

This also reminds me out here in Maryland that Kansas does have wetlands to filter water at Cheyenne Bottoms in Great Bend, KS...central kansas. It is small but an important resting spot for many migratory birds. It almost dried up in the 1980s before Kansas government stepped in.

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