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Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:04 am

It’s time for a Lake Springfield maintenance plan

Lake Springfield is the crown jewel of the City of Springfield. It is the most valuable and most important asset the city owns. It is our only water supply, the coolant for the power plant and host to more than 600,000 annual visitors who fish, boat, swim and use the parks. Lake Springfield is vital to the city’s existence. Protecting its beauty and keeping the water as pristine as possible is the city’s responsibility. That is why we need to implement a Lake Springfield maintenance plan. And we need to do it now.

The last dredging program was begun in 1987 and fell woefully short in the amount of eroded sediment it removed. Lake Springfield is constantly filling up with silt, agricultural chemicals and other undesirable substances. Dredging is the only way to remove these substances before they make it into our water treatment plant. Additionally, dredging adds depth, improves fish habitat and improves recreational opportunities for users of Lake Springfield, all while providing a “trap” to prevent further sedimentation problems throughout the rest of the lake. Dredging improves overall water quality and saves the city money in the treatment process.

And, though it is not a replacement for an additional water source, dredging could increase capacity by 5 percent to 10 percent over time. With the odds of Hunter Lake approval decreasing every day, every little bit of capacity increase helps. Everyone agrees that a dredging program is needed on Lake Springfield. The subject always comes down to two issues: 1) Where do we put the dredged material? and 2) How do we pay for it?

As for where to put it, CWLP owns substantial land around the lake. Most of the sediment that needs to be removed is where the two largest sources of water come into Lake Springfield – Sugar Creek and Lick Creek. There is plenty of capacity left in the fields that were used to dispense of material dredged back in the 1980s near these tributaries. By using these exact same areas, the major issue of sediment placement is eliminated.

As for the cost, an ongoing lake maintenance plan where a dredger is kept on Lake Springfield rather than a full-blown, one-time project, will significantly reduce costs. Money can be, and should be, budgeted annually for dredge maintenance rather than another one-time major project that costs more money and inconveniences recreational users. Dredging can be done in the off-season when recreational use is low. CWLP has a responsibility to maintain the lake and its budget should reflect those maintenance costs.

Additionally, the city should include dredging expenses in any new infrastructure maintenance plan it passes. The city benefits tremendously from the 600,000-plus visitors who use the lake each year. These guests buy accessories, gas and food, stay in hotels, visit Lincoln sites, the zoo, the Muni, Lincoln Greens golf course and our marina. Those sales tax dollars go into the city’s coffers, not CWLP’s. CWLP charges fees to boat on the lake. They recently received a $1.3 million Atrazine lawsuit settlement. These funds should also be earmarked for lake maintenance.

Finding the money is always an important factor. However, the city found the money to build a new power plant, a new water treatment plant and a new sewer treatment facility. We are confident that they should be able to find the money to do lake maintenance. We took care of the water leaving the lake, now it is time to take care of this vital resource as it enters the lake. I strongly suggest the maintenance of Lake Springfield be put on the highest priority before it becomes a crisis. Keep in mind that we can live without everything else except a clean and plentiful supply of water.

Bob Gordon is owner of the Lake Springfield Marina. Contact him at 483-DOCK (3625) or 725-4844.
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