(Above: I took this picture of Lake Decatur on a very windy day!)
The city of Decatur has been debating how best to increase Decatur’s water supply, for several months now, however no clear plan has yet been established on how best to actually accomplish that goal. One thing is for certain. It’s clear that we need to dredge our current lake at a much quicker pace than we currently are. Basically at the rate were dredging the lake now, we’re barely making progress at all for one simple reason; we take out about the same amount of silt that washes back into the lake every year. So we’re looking at a never ending dredging project! Clearly we need to speed up dredging but we also need to prevent silt from reaching the lake in the first place. Silt is basically just the dirt that’s washing down the Sangamon River from field run-off. There’s two ways to combat that and they both need to be employed. One is building a silt dam to collect the silt before it reaches the main lake; the second would require a change in farming practices in the Sangamon River watershed. The use of environmentally friendly farming methods would help prevent and/or drastically reduce the amount of soil run-off from farmland in the watershed area. Many farmers are already doing their part to prevent soil erosion but many simply aren’t doing enough. This would probably require a state-wide mandate of some sort, however I’d rather it be accomplished through education efforts. Admittedly, I’m not a farm expert but I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to require fields have so many feet of “green space” between tilled soil and nearby ditches, creeks and rivers. We’re losing great amounts of topsoil from some of the richest farmland in the nation every year because of current farming practices – we’re also putting our water supply at risk. It’s not just dirt that washes from the fields but also chemicals.
(Above: Photo of the approximate location for the second lake on the northeast side of Decatur. Photo taken from Greenswitch Road. No that isn’t the new lake! I think the new lake is supposed to be a tad bit bigger.)
The second major solution to increase Decatur water supply is a second lake. The various proposed locations of the lake has caused a little bit of controversy through the past couple of years. It was even suggested that the lake be located in Forsyth, even though Decatur water customers would be paying for it! That was a short lived proposition. The most likely location, or at least the one that’s still being talked about, is on the northeast side of town – just north of Mound Road near Stevenson Grade School. A portion of this lake would still be within Decatur city limits but the larger portion would not be. In a recent city council meeting it was estimated that out of the 300 homes that could be built around the lake only about 30 would actually be in Decatur’s school district. Personally, I would love the see the lake become a conservation area. There’s two very good reasons why I’d like to see this happen, one I’m a tree hugger 🙂 and two, this would eliminate the political battles that would inevitably erupt between Decatur and our communities to the north – who stand to benefit much more financially from the lake than Decatur – even though Decatur would be paying for it. Honestly, I care more about conservation than the money part. There is very little land in Macon County that isn’t either cultivated or developed and I want to make sure that we put some serious thought towards conservation for area wildlife and us two legged creatures. The north side of Decatur, and even Macon County, has very little undeveloped land for wildlife and recreation. I grew up not far from the proposed lake location and I’d like to see this area become something that future generations will appreciate – not just another money maker for developers. I don’t have anything against people wanting to make money but not at the expense of the land and wildlife. Yes, I’m a true environmental nut!
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about water in the coming months and I’m also sure you’ll be seeing me, before the city council wanting more room – for the critters! I don’t know if I’ll make any difference but I’ll be there!