• Last modified 386 days ago (June 29, 2023)


Nuclear plant eyes reservoir

Wants about as much water as 3 cities combined

Staff writer

Evergy wants to buy 19% of Marion Reservoir’s conservation pool water to use for cooling basins at Wolf Creek nuclear power plant near Burlington.

“That has never happened before,” Lisa Suderman, vice chairman of the Neosho Regional Advisory Committee, told county commissioners Monday.

The state owns the water in the reservoir. That’s why the request was directed to the state, she said.

She provided a memo from Kansas Water Office stating that negotiations for the water were approved by the water authority.

“Marion (Reservoir) has been underutilized, and demands are blowing up downstream in the region,” Nate Westrup, water office manager of public water supply programs, who is negotiating a contract with Evergy, was quoted in the office memo Suderman presented.

Suderman said she and others in the Neosho Regional Advisory Committee thought that if John Redmond Reservoir north of Burlington were dredged, sufficient water would be available for Wolf Creek’s needs.

“I’m not really sure why they are doing this,” Suderman said. “It’s not like John Redmond Reservoir has gone dry.”

Suderman suggested that the county, cities, and Marion County residents who have a stake in Marion Reservoir water meet to discuss getting a retention agreement. A retention agreement applies not to drawing water out of the reservoir but to retaining water in the reservoir.

Suderman suggested forming a delegation of every governing body in the county to talk to the water office about such an agreement.

“I am afraid this is just the beginning,” she said.

Commission chairman Dave Mueller said he wanted to schedule a public meeting with stakeholders.

Marion Reservoir provides water for Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody.

In addition to municipalities, Suderman said, stakeholders could include fishermen, owners of businesses, and others who care about the reservoir.

“Our 2021 contract with the KWO is for 300 million gallons, which is what that allocation was in the previous contract,” Hillsboro city administrator Matt Stiles said. “That is probably double what we really use annually but we didn’t want to get into a situation where Evergy came in and scooped up all the capacity if we needed it. They were discussing Wolf Creek wanting more allocation then, so we tried to plan ahead.

“I believe Peabody’s annual allocation is 65 million gallons. Everyone with a renewed contract now pays the market rate for KWO, which actually goes up annually now. The increase has historically averaged out at 3%, but there is not a cap on it. Gone are the days of the fixed, multiple-decades-long contracts.”

Marion is in the midst of negotiating a new water contract, Marion city administrator Brogan Jones said.

Currently, 237.5 million gallons are allotted to Marion every year. The city’s last contract is 40 years old, Jones said.

Stiles predicted Marion’s cost under its new contract would be “a shock.”

“Ours jumped from $15,000 annually to $65,000,” Stiles said. “The terms also changed to make you pay more for your capacity that you aren’t using. We figured it was better to pay more on the unused allocation than to wind up short, especially with Evergy poking around for more water.”

“Marion Reservoir would be a supplemental source for Wolf Creek,” Westrup said.

The water supply demand from Wolf Creek will draw Marion Reservoir’s water supply down, Westrup said.

“We need to supply Wolf Creek with water through 2045,” he said. “Their request is to continue to have water for operation. We can’t supply their demand through 2045 through John Redmond only.”

Westrup said the plan would be to store 5 billion gallons of water to provide about 1.8 billion gallons for Peabody, Hillsboro, and Marion and Wolf Creek, with the cities and plant getting equal amounts.

Odds are that Wolf Creek would need that water during only two of the next 70 years, he said.

“It’s extremely improbable, about a 1% chance, that we would use any water in Marion Reservoir for Wolf Creek,” he said.

As for the idea of dredging John Redmond Reservoir of silt buildup causing that reservoir to hold less water, Westrup said the water office needed to evaluate different technologies to improve storage and maintenance at Redmond.

“We’re working on solutions for that,” he said.

Last modified June 29, 2023