Water is filling back into the lake, the road around is fixed, all just in time for Pratt's annual Independence Day celebration.
Water is flowing back into the Pratt County Veteran’s Memorial Lake. Repairs to the inlet and outlet valves and pipes were completed this week and the water was turned on Tuesday, June 25.
Robert Smiley, owner of Smiley Concrete who was in charge of the repairs, said Monday, June 24 that the new pipes were installed, the concrete work was done and they were just mopping up the last elements including doing back fill on the road so a fresh layer of asphalt can be applied and the road around the lake can be reopened. Crews were busy Wednesday hauling and compacting dirt and testing the compaction rates in preparation for the new asphalt.
Repairs to the lake were scheduled to start around May 1 but were delayed and delayed again because rains kept coming. Smiley said they were within one day to finally start working when rain brought flood waters again and another week of work was lost due to the flood.
A major flood on Labor Day in 2018 caused damage to both the inlet and outlet valves at the lake. The area around the outlet valve had already started to collapse and create a sink hole that reached onto the roadway. Asphalt was used to help fill the hole but it just kept getting bigger. Then the flood hit resulting in a large sink hole and damage to the inlet and outlet systems.
During the inspection of the sinkhole and outlet valve, the inlet valve and pipe was checked and it was discovered that it and the inlet pipes needed to be replaced as well. It was determined that the lake had to be drained to make repairs.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism used electro shock to secure the game fish and move them to other state lakes. An open fishing policy was established and fishermen could use any means they wanted to get the remaining fish out of the lake. While fishermen were able to catch some good sized catfish and walleye, there were a lot of non-game fish like carp that were caught and tossed aside to die.
Repairs began on June 6, a month past the original start date, with a June 22 project finishing date. The rain kept coming and that date looked less and less likely but Smiley’s crews were able to complete their work just a couple of days past the deadline.
When construction began on the lake, the flood caused an additional problem by raising the water table seven feet from the original level, Smiley said.
The project required special ponds and setting new pipe in running water. A special pump company was called in to keep water out of the work area over a critical four-day period, Smiley said.
On the inlet side, two new 16-inch pipes and two new valves were installed and that portion of the project was completed first. New asphalt has been put in place on the road surface that was trenched to put in the pipe.
On the outlet side, a new precast concrete overflow drain box with a four feet diameter overflow pipe was installed along with two new 18-inch drain pipes that were installed 20 feet deep and new valves.
“We have a much larger drainage system to handle the big rains if they come again,” Smiley said.
A sub-contractor supplied the overflow box and when it arrived it had two, 4-foot holes in it instead of just one so another had to be made and it slowed down the final part of the project a couple of days.
Smiley has been working with Kirkham Michael, the county consulting firm, and they did everything in their power to keep the project moving forward, Smiley said.
This was a new type of project for Smiley Concrete. They felt they were under a lot of pressure to complete the project before Independence Day and that provided the drive and determination to make it happen, Smiley said.
Smiley said he was very appreciative to get a job like this and that he and his crew learned a lot. He appreciates all the hard work and the support from the community as well as KDWPT, the state and the county.
Filling the lake is a long process. Doug Freund, county road and bridge supervisor, estimates it will take from three to four weeks to complete the fill. Filling the lake should not interfere with the downstream flow of the Ninnescah River.
Freund said fishermen will have to be patient a while longer before KDWPT gets the lake restocked. Since the water is flowing in from the river, a few fish have already made it back into the lake. But it will take several months before all the game fish will be available again.
As for Independence Day and the annual fireworks display on July 6, Smiley said the lake will be ready for the event.