Mayor: Mitchell, S.D., needs 'clear map' to guide lake restoration
MITCHELL, S.D. - Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey remains confident Lake Mitchell's algae problems are solvable. Toomey, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell and Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee Chairman Joe Kippes visited Omaha last week to me...
MITCHELL, S.D. - Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey remains confident Lake Mitchell's algae problems are solvable.
Toomey, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell and Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee Chairman Joe Kippes visited Omaha last week to meet with the water quality specialists at Fyra Engineering, the company that proposed a $73,000 development plan to determine the best methods of improving the lake.
After the visit, in which the city representatives traveled to three local restoration projects completed by Fyra, Toomey said Mitchell will need engineering assistance if it will ever eliminate the algae that turns Lake Mitchell green each summer.
"From my personal viewpoint, it becomes more apparent to me that if we are to see any significant improvements in water quality at Lake Mitchell, that it needs to be a dual effort between conservation and engineering," Toomey said in an email on Monday. "I believe that one without the other will not produce any significant results in the short term, or for that matter, perhaps the long run."
The Omaha trip comes two months after the lake committee suggested moving away from Fyra's proposal, which had been a topic of discussion for nearly one year. Without a quorum at the June meeting, nothing was formally recommended by the voluntary committee.
But the final decision whether to select Fyra's proposal does not fall to the lake committee. The project requires majority support from the eight-person City Council, and if approved, it would allow Fyra to begin data analysis and collection while establishing a community-based planning group to involve the public in the project. Once completed, Toomey said, cost analysis and possible restoration options can be determined.
If approved by the council, the city has $80,000 available in a reserve fund dedicated to lake improvements that could be applied to the project.
As mayor, Toomey does not vote on budget items, but he said a plan like Fyra's is needed to improve the decades-old problems at the manmade lake.
"If we don't develop a clear map as to where we need to go, then we will never know where we will end up at," Toomey said.
If the city seeks the help of a firm like Fyra and a conservation group like the James River Water Development District, Toomey said the lake could see visual improvements in five to seven years.
While visiting Omaha, the city also received the results of a $3,000 core sampling of the soil on the lake's floor. Toomey said the study determined it isn't solely the often-blamed agriculture runoff from Firesteel Creek causing the high levels of algae-causing phosphorus in the lake.
"The test showed that our lake has a high phosphorus level on the bottom that will continue feeding the algae, so even with conservation efforts along Firesteel Creek, we would still need to come up with a plan to deal with this issue," Toomey said. "This specific problem alone will continue to support algae growth until it is dealt with."
The Omaha trip will be discussed in detail at a special lake committee meeting at 4 p.m. today at the Mitchell Recreation Center. Regular board meetings are typically held at 4 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Rec Center.