Top priority of Forest Lake is for drinking water, not recreation

Forest Lake at Thousand Hill State Park serves as one of the primary water supply sources for the City of Kirksville. But, some residents are worried their recreation opportunities may become more difficult due to the invasive curly-leaf pondweed that can be found in the water.

A letter is circulating on social media and has been sent to Kirksville City Council members.

It states maintenance of Forest Lake has been removed from the city’s budget for upcoming years – which means the weed can take over quickly, making boating and swimming hazardous.

KTVO went to the city, and asked Kirksville Public Works Director Glenn Balliew why maintenance of the lake was no longer budgeted for 2021.

“We’ve always maintained Forest Lake – We had a weed problem that popped up about three or four years ago. We did a three year program to determine how that affected water quality. We determined that it doesn’t really affect water quality at all, as far as water treatment goes. The first priority of Forest Lake is for drinking water, not for recreation.”

Balliew says that from the public works standpoint, the removal of the weed is not necessary, and can instead be treated, if needed.

“If when the weed decays it requires a little more treatment process, it’s more cost effective for the taxpayer to spend the money on treatment, then spend $50,000 on weed removal because the cost is minimal to treat that water.”

Last year, a small dredging project took place to see how host effective that method would be for cleaning up the lake.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to that – obviously the dirt, the silt, has to go somewhere. How do you get access to take it somewhere, how do you get that moved up onto the shore, and then move it from there after it dries, how do you barge it out – there’s a lot of different things to go on with that. It would be millions and millions of dollars – so, is it cost effective? That’s something that the taxpayers will have to decide.”

Balliew said that in addition to taxpayers, the state would also have to be on board because the state owns all of the property around the lake and handles all recreational activities on the water.

He said he hopes the state is willing to get involved with the city, should another dredging project take place in the future.

“That’s going to be a long term program. We found that out very quickly when we tried to do some dredging to figure out what it looked like – that’s why there’s no dredging in there now, because it’s just not going to be something that you just put $100,000 in and do every year.”

The city has informed all needed state entities that dredging is not in the budget – but has not received a response.

But, Balliew adds the 2021 budget for the City of Kirksville has not yet been finalized.

“In reality, the city is removing weeds that doesn’t really effect us that much, it effects recreation more. But with that said, the city council is still looking at it, the city manager has asked me to look at some alternative things, so I’ve supplied her that information so she can provide it to the council. So, from a public works perspective, we don’t really need it for water quality, but it’s not a dead issue with the city council because they are still looking at it.”

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