Board & Staff
Mission & Vision

History of Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.

Cheney Lake Watershed got its start in 1992 when the Reno County Conservation District and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) county committee formed a task force to investigate water quality concerns related to Cheney Reservoir and the North Fork of the Ninnescah River. Farmers were particularly concerned about highly visible bank erosion along the river and the potential impact on the reservoir.

The City of Wichita had experienced taste and odor problems in its water for several years related to summer algae blooms in the reservoir. Although the problem was not considered health threatening, the Water Department was facing considerable expense if further water treatment was to be used to address the problem.

1992 Task Force

The task force, which was chaired by a farmer, included other farmers, a Wichita Water Department employee, and representatives from numerous state and federal agencies. Over the course of a year and a half, this group held community listening sessions in the watershed, identified potential sources of pollution, developed a plan of action and began to seek funds that could launch a major effort to protect water quality.

Limited preliminary information from existing water testing programs indicated high levels of phosphorus and suspended solids within Cheney Reservoir. Although the lake sediment was not exceeding the predictions made at the time the reservoir was constructed, excess soil loss on fields in the watershed indicated that reductions in erosion could extend the life of the lake from an expected 100 years to 200 years.

Possible phosphorus sources were phosphorus fertilizer attached to soil particles, domestic livestock waste, wildlife, household septic systems, and small town waste systems. The task force expected fertilizers and livestock to be the greatest contributors.

1994 Citizen's Management Committee

The Reno County Conservation District established a Citizen's Management Committee (CMC) to direct the new watershed project. The CMC was comprised of a seven-member board appointed by the Conservation District. Four members of the board were to represent each of the four sub-watersheds - East Ninnescah, West Ninnescah, Goose Creek, and Silver Creek. The remaining members were appointed at-large.

The CMC operated as a sub-committee of the Conservation District. The District managed the project finances and applied for grant funds. The project also established formal working relationships with the other conservation districts within the watershed.

The first major grant was secured from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment in 1994 with $170,000 of Section 319 funds allocated for the first two years of a multi-year grant running from January 1995 to October 2000. The City of Wichita pledged $200,000 annually for the next six years to support the project. Major support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Reno County Conservation District, and other state and federal agencies enabled the establishment of a project office and support staff.

A project manager, clerical staff, a part-time field technician, and a cartographer staffed the Water Quality Project Office located in the USDA Service Center in Reno County. A public relations coordinator was added in 1998 to work directly with farmers.

1999 Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.

In 1999, the CMC established a 501c-3 non-profit organization called Cheney Lake Watershed Inc. (CLW) for the purpose of seeking funding from private sources for watershed projects. The development of a membership organization separate from other agencies also allows for broad ownership within the watershed. In slightly over a year, the CLW had nearly 200 members. The agencies and organizations that participated in the original Task Force continued to provide guidance and technical support to the board of the CLW.

Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.
18 East 7th Street - South Hutchinson, Kansas 67505
Phone: 620-669-8161 ext. 4
Fax: 620-669-5496

Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc. does not accept unsolicited advertisements at this fax number.