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City creates Lake Mitchell fund to track expenses, revenue being used for restoration work

City Administrator says lake fund will provide more transparency

An aerial view of Lake Mitchell. (Republic file photo)
An aerial view of Lake Mitchell. The city of Mitchell recently created a special fund to track expenses and revenue allocated for lake restoration work. (Mitchell Republic file photo)

MITCHELL — As city leaders continue investing in cleaning up Lake Mitchell, a new special fund will help track all spending and grant money allocated to lake restoration work.

City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein said the lake fund will also bring transparency to the city’s spending used for its efforts in improving the lake’s water quality.

“Another reason why we created it was because we used to use the lake for our drinking water, and we used to put all of the revenue and expenses from the lake in the water fund,” Ellwein said.

Since the city no longer uses Lake Mitchell as its water source after switching to B-Y Water District – which transports the city’s water from the Missouri River – the revenue and expenses tied to the lake could be seen in the city’s water fund. However, with the creation of the lake fund, Ellwein said it will reflect the city’s expenses and revenue for all things Lake Mitchell.

As the city is inching closer to beginning the multimillion-dollar wetland project along Firesteel Creek to reduce the phosphorus and sediment flowing into the lake, along with investing in lake dredging design work, Ellwein said the lake fund will help city officials and the public keep track of the money being spent toward both major projects.

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Lake_Mitchell_Algae_July6.jpg
An algae warning sign is posted along Lake Mitchell in July 2019, which is when the algal blooms tend to spread throughout the body of water.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

“We can more clearly detect what the revenue and expenses are and how they are being used for what we are doing with the lake,” she said.

As of now, the fund shows the lake is projected to generate $2.4 million in revenue for 2022, while expenses are projected to amount to roughly $3.3 million.

The revenue generated from the lake is primarily powered by grant funds that the city recently secured for its plans to construct a wetland roughly 2 miles west of the lake – where the city purchased 371 acres of land and a home in 2019 for a total cost of $4.1 million.

Making up a majority of the lake’s revenue is the $1.1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant and the $1.2 million Ducks Unlimited grant, both of which are being used to cover the costs of building the wetland along Firesteel Creek that’s slated to begin in the spring. In addition, the city collected $150,000 from Poet – the biorefinery company that pays the city to use water from the lake on an annual basis – and a $15,571 crop lease.

Among the most notable lake expenses that are projected in 2022 includes roughly $2.2 million allocated to cover the costs of the upcoming wetland project aimed at reducing the phosphorus and sediment flowing into the lake from Firesteel Creek. The lake fund also shows $661,000 in expenses that the city budgeted for the final design phase of the lake dredging project. In addition, Ellwein said $29,000 of the expenses in the lake fund reflect repairs and maintenance, which she noted are primarily due to routine maintenance work at the former Kelley house, the home purchased by the city in 2019.

“What’s nice about this fund is it also shows what was spent on the lake in previous years to give us a comparison on the money being invested in improving the lake,” Ellwein said.

Considering the amount of time and money being spent by the city to improve the lake’s ongoing algae woes that have been plaguing the city-owned body of water for decades, Ellwein said the lake fund may help dispel rumors of how the city is spending money on the lake restoration work.

“It also shows the public how we use our revenue to cover costs of the big projects we have at the lake, such as the wetland,” she said.

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