Major construction work is expected to take place in the Kansas River during the next several months as part of a multimillion dollar project to shore up operations of Lawrence's Kaw Water Treatment plant.
City officials have awarded a $3.8 million bid to Wolf Construction to build a new raw water intake in the Kansas River and to improve the functionality of an existing intake in the river. The intakes are the key pieces of equipment that take water from the river and transfer it to the Kaw plant, where it is treated for use as drinking water.
"It is something we have needed for a long time, so we are happy to get to work on it," said Dave Wagner, the city's director of utilities.
For several years, the Kaw plant, located at Third and Indiana streets, has had only one functional water intake. That has made the plant susceptible to unexpected shutdowns caused by clogs or other problems.
The city has a second water plant — the Clinton Water Treatment Plant — that can provide all the city's water supply during normal times. But having both plants operational is important during hot weather when water usage is high, city officials said. The two-plant system also protects the city in the event that problems develop with the raw water supply of either Clinton Lake or the Kansas River.
Construction work is expected to begin in early 2014 and likely will last into July. Revenues from city water rates will pay for the project. The winning bid was about $1 million less than city engineers had projected.
The work will involve some dredging of the river near the bank that runs alongside Burcham Park. The construction will close some areas of the park to public use.
Users of the park have been able to see the tops of the three old water intakes, which normally stick up above the river's waterline. Two of those old intakes will be removed, one will be repaired, and crews will install a new intake in the same general vicinity.
Wagner said engineers did considerable study on where the best location for the intakes should be, based on sand flow and other factors. They found that the location chosen by city officials in the early 1900s continued to be the best spot.
"Like a lot of things," Wagner said, "the old timers had it figured out."