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Water release delayed

8/28/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The city of Russell has withdrawn its plan to call for a release from Cedar Bluff Reservoir.

The city of Hays has followed suit, canceling plans for a Sept. 5 release from water owned by the city of Russell and water in a Kansas Water Office artificial recharge pool in the Trego County reservoir.

"We think we're going to be OK until after that," Russell City Manager Ralph Wise said of postponing the release beyond the Sept. 5 date the release was scheduled to begin.

How long the call might be delayed is uncertain, but there won't be another conference call on the issue until Sept. 10

Continuing declines in Russell's Smoky Hill wells have moderated slightly, Wise said, and are not yet to the same level they were in 2006, something of a benchmark for calling for a release from Cedar Bluff.

"We were concerned they were going down half a foot a week," Wise said. "The last ones didn't go down at all.

"They're still down. They're bad, but they're not as bad as they were in 2006."

Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty said the city has canceled a call for the releases as well, something that would have been done in tandem to increase the chances of water reaching both the Hays and Russell wellfields at Schoenchen and Pfeifer.

"We're keeping our options open," he said.

Hays wellfields along the Smoky Hill River remain in good shape, Dougherty said, and with cooling temperatures, evaporation rates in Cedar Bluff are declining. As well, Cedar Bluff water levels are up a half-foot due to the rains.

"It's something we don't want to do unless it's absolutely necessary," he said of requesting water from Cedar Bluff. "If we do it, it will be later in the fall."

Dougherty said the Hays wellfield on the Smoky has gone 18 to 24 months without any recharge. If dry conditions persist through the winter, the wells would face spring in an already depleted situation.

"I don't know how much I want to test it on the bottom end," he said of how drought-proof the wellfield might be as conditions deteriorate.

Recent rains so far haven't helped either wellfield on the Smoky, but Dougherty is hopeful it might replenish water in the Big Creek system.

Russell, meanwhile, still is unable to use its wells along Big Creek.

"It hasn't made it here yet," Wise said of runoff from last week's rains. "We haven't been able to pump yet."

Dougherty said he was out Saturday checking Big Creek and the Smoky to see what effect the rains had on either river system.

"There was not a drop of water running from south of Ellis to south of Victoria," he said of the Smoky.

Big Creek, however, was flowing south of Victoria.