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Larned council tackles water issues

Jun 07, 2023

Larned City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a brief look at what the Larned City Council did at their meeting Monday evening:

• In the consent agenda, approved a calendar moving forward on the 2024 budget process, beginning with the release of the proposed 2024 budget to the council on Wednesday and ending with the Oct. 1 deadline to forward the certified budget to the Pawnee County Clerk’s Office.

Cereal Malt Beverage licenses were granted for the Boots and Brews event on July 22 at the Pawnee County Fairgrounds and for the Pawnee County Fair from July 27-29.

• Approved Appropriation Ordinance No. 6 in the amount of $801,090.69 plus transfers.

• Heard a public comment presentation from residents Chris and Mark Phillips regarding a request to review the city’s ordinances on emotional support animals in the city limits.

• Approved the proposed formation of a Water Rights Task Force to explore strategies and policy for securing the city’s water rights.

• Discussed a request by Housing Opportunities Inc. to apply $10,000 from the city’s unrestricted reserve toward its insurance deductible for roof repair of the six units in the Dream Homes project due to storm damage in May.

• Approved the purchase of a rotary fan press filtration unit in the amount of $475,786 for the city’s wastewater treatment plant as a replacement for the plant’s 20-year-old belt filter press discussed in June’s regular meeting.

• Heard a staff presentation from Larned City Manager Brad Eilts regarding railroad crossing repairs on several locations in south Larned.

LARNED — Water issues dominated agenda discussion at the Larned City Council’s meeting Monday.

In the first item of new business, the council approved the establishment of a Water Rights Task Force followed up with the purchase of a new rotary fan press filtration unit for the city’s wastewater plant.

City Manager Brad Eilts told the council that the statutory window was closing on the city’s ability to secure water rights for the community based on peak usage.

For the past four decades, the city has operated under an unsecured water right to consume 601.2 million gallons annually. By state statute, a community has 40 years to acquire and perfect a water right amount. For Larned, that period of time expired in 2019, at which time the City of Larned applied for and received a five-year extension.

“That window is getting ready to close,” Eilts said. “At the end of this year, we will actually be at the end of our fifth year for securing water rights.”

Eilts said the narrative on the perfection process has changed during that time, due to recent legislation. “As water scarcity becomes more pronounced, the allocation and transfer of water rights may become a significant issue, especially as competing demands from agriculture, industry and urban areas intensify,” Eilts noted.

For industries or businesses coming to town that require water in their operations, having a significant amount perfected would be a deciding factor in the future of the community’s economy, he said.

Securing a water right depends upon peak usage, which in Larned’s case over the 40 year period was in 1980, at 440 million gallons. That’s just shy of 75% of its unsecured total. In several separate years, the city was shy of that peak; in 2022, the city consumed 327 million gallons — just about 54 percent of the unsecured total.

To fully secure the total, the city would have to use 601.2 million metered gallons in one calendar year. If that total proves unreachable, the city could secure higher water rights if it consumes more than the 1980 peak of 440 million gallons in one year.

Activating the task force

“Reaching that total (of 601 million gallons) is a pretty tall order,” Eilts noted. “We must develop a strategy to protect our community’s ability to grow and prosper.”

While there wouldn’t be enough time to utilize a significant amount of water by the end of the extension, Eilts explained the Task Force would focus on creating a plan it could present to the Groundwater District with hopes of receiving another extension.

“Having the task force come up with a solid plan is something that we could add to our presentation,” he said.

The council then moved to proceed with the task force formation, with future discussion of the its membership to take place at a tentative special meeting preceding the budget work session on July 17.

New tech for wastewater plant

Based on a positive demonstration in June, City Wastewater Superintendent Dale Vanderhoof recommended the council purchase a new rotary fan press for the city’s wastewater plant. A reduction in price from the original proposal allows for the addition of a second de-watering channel that would double the plant’s capacity, bringing the new total to $465,776, that includes shipping, on-site startup, training and a second dosing pump.

Vanderhoof noted the resulting dried solids removed from the water were much drier than the existing 20-year-old system was capable of producing. The demo unit ran continuously and unsupervised for 22 hours during the test and was much quieter than the existing system, he said.

After discussion, the council unanimously voted to purchase the new system with recommended modifications.