Opinion: La Cygne decision to look at regional water provider status welcomed
By Roger Sims, Journal publisher
The decision by the La Cygne City Council to further explore making a major overhaul to the city’s water treatment plant is a welcome step in future development, particularly in northern Linn County.
We have seen this year how precious a commodity water is. Towns in western Kansas have had their water supplies nearly depleted in the drought, and that certainly puts the future of those communities in peril.
Eastern Kansas is more fortunate. Even in times of drought, we are lucky enough to get an occasional cloudburst as a front blowing in from the west meets a wave of moisture rising up from the Gulf. It doesn’t always happen in a timely manner for crops, but we usually get the fall rains.
The water supply for Linn County has become increasingly centralized. Where Mound City, Blue Mound, Prescott and Parker have had their own lakes as a water supply, the cost of running a treatment plant that will meet state and federal regulations has become too much for small cities to afford.
Pleasanton has a water treatment plant that now supplies water to city residents only. The rest of the cities and rural water districts are now supplied by Public Wholesale Water District No. 13 and the city of La Cygne.
Linn Valley will, over the next two years, become reliant on La Cygne water as well. That city, which is quickly growing once again, will add more than 300 meters to its new water system.
If La Cygne finds the right combination of grants and loans to make the anticipated expansion, it will make that city’s water supply key to future growth in the area. Of course, the costs to make those improvements will not fall only on the citizens of La Cygne but will be shared with the city’s wholesale water customers.
Where as the wholesale water district’s water supply comes from Critzer Lake west of Mound City, La Cygne’s water supply comes from the Marais des Cygnes River, which in dry times is fed by Pomona and Melvern reservoirs. Both of those are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and La Cygne – like Ottawa, Osawatomie, Paola and the La Cygne power plant – has a dedicated reserve pool of water in that system.
The Linn County Comprehensive Plan that was approved by the Linn County Commission last year has language calling on the county to develop a plan for water use that could be activated if necessary. So far, calling for plan development is as far as that has gone as commissioners recent turned down a request to the county for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant funds to help with the update.
In 2022, La Cygne City Clerk approached the Linn County Commission asking for help in upgrading its plant, specifically splitting the $130,000 cost of a new carbon room feeder for the water plant. Early this year, that request was denied on a 2-1 vote with Commissioner Jason Hightower casting the sole vote in favor of the request.
La Cygne's decision to build a new city fire station with its ARPA money may have been a sticking point in that decision by commissioners, but it shouldn't have been. Long term, the new fire station will not only provide room for the city's fire department and the police department.
The expansion of the city's water treatment plant not only meets the planning called for by the county's own comprehensive plan, it looks forward to provide a precious resource for the entire area. That is a step the commission should have eagerly embraced, and it failed in not doing so.
The La Cygne council’s decision to look at giving the La Cygne water plant the capability of being a regional supplier is a major step in water security for the area as well as being a key ingredient for growth in the area.
It is an important step, particularly for the northern tier of the county, and people who live there should be grateful for the council's willingness to take on that responsibility.