A new lake called peril to wellfield
A massive lake proposed along the Platte River near Mahoney State Park would flood wellfields for Lincoln and Omaha, resulting in enormous costs to reconnect those water supplies. The impact could be enough, some say, to scuttle the lake proposal.
"The lake as configured in the (newspaper) is not going to happen," said Tom Wurtz, president of the Metropolitan Utilities District in Omaha.
"You can't say you're going to take one-third of the water supply of Omaha and all of the water supply in Lincoln and say you're going to have economic growth - that's not going to happen."
MUD would lose the $350 million it is investing in a new wellfield and nearby treatment plant, Wurtz said.
The wellfield has been built and the treatment plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2008. The project was designed to meet the Omaha area's water needs for decades to come, accounting for one-third of MUD's total capacity.
Steve Huggenberger, assistant city attorney in Lincoln, said the cost of replacing Lincoln's wellfield and treatment plant, if both were flooded, could reach $1 billion. Virtually all of Lincoln's water comes from the wellfield that would be flooded. A nominal amount comes from another site.
Lake water, Wurtz said, is not a suitable substitute for water from an aquifer.
For one thing, pumping by the cities would affect the lake's level, lessening its attractiveness for recreation, he said.
For another, MUD would be trading a "very pure" water source - the aquifer - for surface water subject to contamination by human activity. Indeed, Wurtz said, reservoirs built for drinking water often restrict human access.
I'm still pegging the chances for this project at about 0.05%.