America’s Smartland Series: Regional Best Practice

John Redmond Resovior Dredging

Kansas completed the first phase of dredging operations at John Redmond Reservoir in the fall of 2016. This large-scale project, initiated by Governor Brownback, “represents the first of its kind in the nation with a non-federal entity dredging sediment from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir for the purpose of water supply storage,” said Tracy Streeter, Director of the Kansas Water Office (KWO).

The John Redmond Dam and Reservoir is named after a prominent newspaper publisher who advocated for flood control and water conservation. It was initially authorized in 1950, after the Neosho River flooded 57 times within a 34-year period. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) constructed the project, which was completed in 1964. Today, the reservoir is not only used for flood control, but also recreation, and is the primary source of water for 10 public water suppliers and 6 industrial users, including Wolf Creek Nuclear Operation Station.

By 2012, it became clear that the reservoir could no longer be relied upon to adequately supply downstream water supply needs during drought conditions. This proved precarious, since the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operation Station relies on John Redmond for its water supply. According to Streeter, this reliance on the reservoir for cooling by the nuclear power plant helps to demonstrate why the ability to store water in the reservoir is critical.

Short and midterm alternatives were not enough to remedy the effects of an approximately 40 percent loss of the reservoir’s conservation pool storage capacity, so Kansas began planning a large-scale dredging project accordingly. However, the funding and construction of the project was under the purview of the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Governor Sam Brownback, looking back on his years in Washington, knew that waiting on funding from Congress for the dredging initiative could put thousands of his citizens in both physical and economic danger.

Therefore, he directed the KWO to take the unique approach of reaching out to the USACE with a 408 Request to initiate a state-funded and state-run restoration of the reservoir. This was the first request of its kind, but after examining several alternatives, the KWO knew this was their best option to ensure timely conservation of the water supply.

The Dredging Initiative will not only restore water supply storage and keep the nuclear power plant operational, it will also recover lost aquatic habitat. Phase one of the project removed 3 million cubic yards of sediment from the reservoir from May to October of 2016 and placed this material into confined disposal facilities (CDF). The project will continue over the next few years as the CDFs are dewatered and reclaimed so that land can be restored and returned to private landowners and the federal government.

The KWO procured funding for the project by securing a $20 million bond. This will be paid back over 15 years through the State Water Plan Fund and from the revenue from the sale of water under the Kansas Water Marketing Program.

Although the state is taking on the actual construction of the Dredging Initiative, it is working closely with the Tulsa District of the USACE. The USACE worked on obtaining necessary information on routes, including environmental impacts prior to the start of the project.

Dr. Bryan Taylor with the USACE said that states wishing to follow Kansas’s example should pre-coordinate with the USACE and local, state, and federal entities to facilitate smoother compliance processes. According to Taylor, USACE expertise and processes can help non-federal dredging projects such as this benefit “all water supply users [by adding] value to the nation as a whole by strengthening its water resources infrastructure systems.”

April 25, 2017 Webinar Presentations

Matt Unruh, Kansas Water Office
Bryan Taylor, U.S. Army Corp. of Energineers

For More Information Please Contact:

Tracy Streeter
Kansas Water Office

Bryan K. Taylor, Ph.D.
Project Manager, Civil Works Branch
Programs and Project Management Division
Tulsa District, US Army Corps of Engineers