With the continued drought, water in El Dorado continues to be an important issue to many, particularly selling water to Wichita and when the city has to pay for the water in El Dorado Lake.
The El Dorado City Commission received an update on the Black and Veatch water study, as well as information on the water the city owns in the lake.
Black and Veatch has completed the draft study of the lake.
“They are in a holding pattern until the city of Wichita finishes their study,” said Kurt Bookout, public utilities director. “We talked to the folks in charge of that study for the city of Wichita and he indicated they were working toward drawing some conclusions from the study in February or March, which is a lot earlier than I thought. They are certainly rushing this as fast as they can.”
Bookout expects an answer from Wichita in February or March as to whether they want to purchase water.
He also is going to ask representatives from Black and Veatch to come to a work session with the city in February to provide an update.
To help the commissioners understand more about how the water agreement works for El Dorado, they were provided some background on the issue.
One question often heard from people in the community is if the city has a big balloon payment coming up sometime soon.
City Manager Herb Llewellyn outlined the contract for the commissioners and the public.
In 1972 the city entered into a contract with the United States to own the drinking and industrial water storage in the lake. The Corp of Engineers kept a little bit of water in the bottom and the city owns all of the water storage from elevation 1,296 to 1,339. Then everything above that is considered flood pool and is owned by the Corp.
When El Dorado lake was built, the city gave the property where Lake El Dorado and Bluestem Lake were to the Corp, for which they were given 28 percent of the volume that the city has a right to purchase.
“That 28 percent is ours since the lake opened in 1982,” Llewellyn said. “There are no payments on it.”
The city does pay a portion of the operation and maintenance costs on the dam and grass.
“To use water we have to buy that portion of the lake that is holding it,” Llewellyn explained. “If we take more than the portion we own, we have to purchase more. We have done that two times.”
In 1991, the city was using more water than the 28 percent, so they exercised their right and bought 8 percent more. That made that portion go from the 100-year mortgage to a 50-year mortgage.
Page 2 of 2 - “In 1991 we started making annual payments on the 8 percent,” Llewellyn said.
Then in 2004, the city needed more water and bought another 13.5 percent and that was given a 50-year mortgage.
“We are now making payments, and have been, on this 13.5 percent,” he said. “The remaining part, if we have more customers we will continue to exercise our right and change our status from balloon in 100 years to annual payments for 50 years. We also are putting money in our bank every year anticipating writing a check for the rest of the lake storage.”
In all, the original loan for the lake was $35 million and they can pay it off any time or start payments any time.
Mayor Tom McKibban asked how far down the lake was now, to which he was told 4.3 feet.
“I want to reassure citizens before this commission or the next would ever agree to anything, Herb has assured us we would have the best water attorney in the country look over the contracts,” McKibban said. “We are not going to endanger El Dorado’s water supply by selling to someone else.”