"Buy land, they're not making it anymore."
Those were the wise words of Mark Twain, and it's a good phrase Mitchell residents should heavily consider right now.
Land is expensive, but it's perhaps the most valuable commodity out there.
And for Mitchell, a certain tract of land recently purchased and approved by the Mitchell City Council is both expensive and valuable. The land, which sits along Firesteel Creek in the Lake Mitchell watershed, is expected to aid in improving Lake Mitchell's poor water quality.
Yes, $4.1 million to purchase about 371 acres along with a residential home is significant. Staggering, really. It's not often the council makes an unexpected multi-million-dollar purchase, and we certainly expect that figure to be somewhat alarming to most citizens.
But some of those concerns are alleviated in hopes that other funding sources - such as agricultural land leasing, water-use agreements and potential grants - will pay for most of the costs. City officials say the annual debt contribution from the city's funds is estimated at $49,000, or just under $1 million over the next 20 years.
The idea is to create a wetland with this land by building a low-head dam to raise the water in the low-lying areas of the property. That will act as a filter of sorts to prevent phosphorus from entering the lake, thus in turn keeping out a significant portion of the blue-green algae that blooms each summer.
Considering agencies such as the James River Watershed Development District and Ducks Unlimited have given their support to the wetlands project, we have to believe those officials know their science and truly think this blueprint will work. And if that's the case, we surely hope they'll throw their financial backing behind it as well.
For the past three to four years or so, we've heard a wide range of numbers estimating the total costs to fix Lake Mitchell. In August, the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee made its pitch to the council for a $19.8 million long-term, three-part plan.
If other studies are indeed correct in that 53 percent of Lake Mitchell's problems come from watershed run-off from the Firesteel Creek, this purchase the mayor and council made recently could be a giant step in the right direction.
It could be the lone opportunity for years to start progress on the lake, which has seemingly grown worse in recent summers. This absolutely is a big-ticket item for the city, but there's only so much land along the Firesteel that can help fix Lake Mitchell. That's why this was a good buy.