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OUR VIEW: Keep an open mind about the restoration of Lake Mitchell

It seems like everywhere we go in Mitchell someone has the answer to addressing water quality issues at the city's lake.

Now, armed with three preliminary scenarios to solve Lake Mitchell's algae woes, Omaha-based water quality specialist Fyra Engineering is the latest to throw its hat into the restoration ring, aiming to answer a decades long problem.

But let's not go ahead and treat Fyra Engineering like a snake oil salesperson looking to make a quick buck from a city desperate to fix its lake.

It's been a week since we got our hands on Fyra's report, and we've done our best to lay their data out for the public without bias. That said, we understand if locals are hesitant.

One proposal, albeit one Fyra does not recommend, features a plan to dump aluminum sulfate in the lake. If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. Mitchell tried this approach about a decade ago, to no avail.

But at around $6 million, it's by far the most affordable plan, so we'd be open to Fyra at least giving it a closer look.

Another plan features a "by-pass" system that would divert some nutrient-rich, algae-feeding water away from the lake and into the James River. That approach, at an estimated $31.2 million, makes us wonder how those downstream would feel about the city of Mitchell pumping its worst water directly to the James River.

However, the cost of the plan, especially if the majority of funding comes from sources other than city dollars, feels like it's worth considering compared to the final scenario.

At $81 million, a major watershed restoration plan feels like an insurmountable cost — something that would burn a hole in the pockets of all Mitchell residents. But if it saves the dying manmade reservoir, it should be considered.

Another approach Fyra tossed out at a meeting last week involves draining the lake. That would allow for more cost-effective dredging, but we suspect lakeside residents wouldn't love the idea of sitting next to a massive hole in the ground for a long period of time.

These plans all come with major benefits and downfalls, but the economic benefit of having a clean and clear recreational lake in Mitchell are immense.

So whether this plan goes to a public vote or not, as some city officials have suggested, we hope as many locals as possible can take a look at Fyra's report or speak with a neighbor or friend on one of the three Lake Mitchell committees. Those folks have become a valuable source of insight on the lake restoration, and we wonder if the city would even be this far in the process without their voluntary help.

We're looking forward to the refined plan Fyra presents to the public in January, and hope the costs are much lower than the initial projections. We also hope Mitchell residents attend that meeting with open ears and open minds.

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