of Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Lake Watershed, Inc.
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.