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Mitchell mayor hopes to hear 'ballpark' cost estimate on lake repair plan

Lake Mitchell (Republic file photo)

A cost estimate for restoration efforts to Lake Mitchell could come soon.

During a Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey said the firm tasked with determining the cause of the lake's annual algae woes stands by its estimate that 60 percent of the restoration costs could be supported through federal funds. And as early as January or February, Toomey hoped the city could learn a dollar figure to repair the lake.

"We need to have some kind of a ballpark figure, we cannot go to the City Council and say 'We don't know what it's going to cost, we'll come back to you and we'll come to the well every six months or whatever for funding,' " Toomey said.

Representatives of the city of Mitchell recently visited with Omaha-based water quality specialists Fyra Engineering and learned a timeline to receive information from its $73,725 report. The report is expected to arrive in the city's hands in December, and the public will have an opportunity to hear the results in January.

Despite a lack of a quorum at Tuesday's meeting at the Mitchell Recreation Center, the group recalled its recent meeting with Fyra, and committee member Joe Kippes shared his thoughts from the meeting in Nebraska.

According to Kippes, Fyra said lake improvements will require long-term water quality fixes in the watershed, but preliminary work can be done within the lake until then.

"What do you do in the meantime?" Kippes said, listing off the questions he said need to be answered. "How do you bridge between now and the long-term solution?"

New committee member Mike Vehle approved of the multi-pronged approach.

"You got to do both," Vehle said. "Otherwise, we're kidding ourselves."

Mitchell Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said the Fyra report will be delivered to committee members in early December, and it will be discussed throughout the month.

After the slate of meetings, Toomey hopes to hear some estimated costs for solutions.

Thanks to committee members Brian Temple and Mark Puetz, as well as Heidi Rients of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the city could get a slight jump on long-term watershed solutions.

Temple said the trio met to put together a brochure to be distributed to landowners in the Lake Mitchell watershed highlighting available conservation programs that could reduce nutrient loading in the lake. The brochure has been discussed in recent months by the committee, but Temple said it could be distributed to landowners and producers as soon as this week.

And while it's not quite finalized, Temple said it will be a beneficial tool to explain the monies available for conservation programs, details about the opportunities and contact information for people who can explain the benefits of the plans from a landowner's perspective.

"And we always felt like the problem is it's just so confusing, there's so many agencies involved and each time you go in you get this big pamphlet from that agency," Temple said, highlighting the need for the concise packet of information.

Kippes was also optimistic of the value of the brochures.

"Hopefully, what it does is it allows them to see the benefits without having to file through a mound of paper," Kippes said.

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