Marion leaders discuss water quality and supply for city

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Water quality and supply were still major topics at the Marion City Commission Monday, but City Administrator David Mayfield said he hoped problems caused by algae bloom at Marion Reservoir would self-correct by Wednesday, or at least by next week.

Harvey Sander, public works director, said the city still is pumping water from Luta Creek with a gasoline pump to supply itself.

Mayfield said the city continues to receive complaints about the taste of the water, but residents need to keep in mind that the creek water is nearly twice as hard in mineral content as the reservoir water but in terms of health quality, it is fine.

Peggy Blackman, representing the Marion County soil conservation agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, came to speak before the commission to correct what she said was “misinformation” that was “misleading” in an editorial by Eric Meyer in the Marion County Record.

Blackman said a combination of natural phenomena created the algae bloom, while the article that appeared laid blame for that and other water quality problems on farmers and the soil conservation services that aid them.

Blackman said trying to treat the water in the reservoir to correct the algae situation would cost a “prohibitive” $80 per acre-foot, and waste the money because the situation shortly will correct through natural means.

Charges that new erosion from farmland during the recent rains contributed aren’t true because there hasn’t been enough run-off water to cause anything but a small water flow into the reservoir, she said.

Blackman said she remembered information from 20 years ago about the reservoir that stated the lake was 30 years ahead of schedule in filling in with sedimentation caused by erosion.

Since then, she said, the agencies and farmers have continued to work on projects to stop erosion, such as waterways, terraces, livestock waste containment systems, and strips of vegetation called “filter strips” next to wellheads to help filter water for farm use.

Tests in recent years have shown water quality in Marion County streams to be good, in some cases better than what was found as recently as a study in 1998, she said.

Of the 70,000 acres from which water flows into the reservoir, 40,000 have erodible classifications that will require continuing work on them, she said. “About 10 percent of the watershed is out of county including most of the Canton in McPherson County.”

Farmers, including many environmentally “very concientious producers,” Blackman said, have federal funding available to them that may include from 50 to 70 percent of the cost of erosion control projects.

“But it’s a voluntary program,” she said. “We can’t do anything on anybody’s land until they come in to ask, and sometimes that’s a problem with absentee landlords, some of them living here in Marion or Hillsboro with the water problem.”

This area is in good shape compared to most of Kansas, Blackman said, with the nearest waterway classified with problems the Whitewater River to the south.

Efforts involving both USDA and the Corps of Engineers are continuing at the reservoir to stabilize shore lines with tree plantings and sinking of cedar tree buffers. Despite this, Blackman said, the reservoir experienced loss of shoreline due to wind and ice last winter.

Commissioner Larry McLain said he hoped efforts would continue to preserve shelterbelts, hedge rows and other tree lines to help halt wind erosion.

Blackman said planting of grass strips and the tendency toward reduced tillage agriculture also are helping halt wind erosion.

She reminded the commission that city dwellers also must take responsibility for water pollution from things such as the chemicals put on lawns and streets.

Mayfield reported that Dean Fincham has resigned from his positions as a member of the airport board and as airport manager.

The commission appointed Dick McLinden to succeed Ficham in the first positon, and Ty Zeiner to succeed him in the second.

Commissioners Jim Crofoot and McLain voted to abandon rights to lots on abandoned railroad right-of-way while retaining 20-foot easement along power lines south of Water Street between First and Second to support ownership by Flaming Plumbing for purposes of adding a building or selling to another who will build.

Mayor Eloise Mueller voted against the abandonment because she preferred the area either stay open or be added to the proposed rails-to-trails development, especially because other lots in town and the industrial park need to be filled.

Susan Cooper, development director, said Small Business Administration economic injury disaster four percent or lower long-term loans may be available to Marion businesses that had to close during the water problems.

The commissioners approved paying warrants for $31,397.37 and payroll for $40,889.36.

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