Innovative use of wetlands will restore lake, provide recreation

An alternative wastewater treatment process will restore a portion of Ulysses' Frazier Park Lake. The wastewater effluent will be filtered through a series of wetlands and stream habitats to be constructed on existing city property, restoring water-based recreational opportunities for the community, enhancing the surrounding riparian wildlife habitat, and providing a dependable source of irrigation water for the local golf course and cemetery.

The project meets the standards for wastewater treatment while restoring the lake to provide an important water-based recreation resource that currently is not available to the residents of Ulysses and the surrounding area, as well as visitor to the area. Development of a system of streams, waterfalls, and wetlands for additional treatment of wastewater enhance the project and contribute to the overall economy of the community.

Without the lake project, the overall quality of the Frazier Park Lake environment would continue to deteriorate. By protecting the integrity of fish and wildlife resources in the area, the project ensures that future generations will have special outdoor recreational resources in this generally arid region of southwest Kansas.

The project is already underway, with a pump station at the city's third sewer lagoon discharging water to the golf course, the cemetery, and other irrigation points. Part of this distribution system will be used to deliver water to the beginning of the new system. Once the system is completed, it will deliver approximately 500,000 gallons of water per day into the rehabilitated Frazier Lake.

As water is pumped from the third lagoon, it will be chlorinated before it enters the first two cells of a six-cell, eight-acre wetlands system. Once constructed, this part of the system will look like six rectangular tail-water pits in two rows. The purpose of the two rows of three cells each is to allow staff to shut down one side at a time if maintenance becomes necessary in the future.

These six cells will be planted with wetland and aquatic plants, and the water will be filtered as it passes through 900 linear feet of these plants. The water will then flow into two constructed streams totaling 3,000 linear feet. The water will travel slowly through these streams, receiving exposure to sunlight and additional filtering through the sand stream beds and more aquatic plants until the it reaches a quicker, steeper grade just before an "equalization wetland." A waterfall area will be constructed on this steeper slope to inject oxygen into the water as it tumbles into the equalization wetland.

The equalization wetland is a small 1.5-acre pool that will be built slightly higher than Frazier Lake. An underground pipe will deliver water from the equalization wetland to the lake.

The lake will be protected from any future flooding by a diversion dike built between the equalization wetland and the lake, preventing storm runoff, floodwater, and silting that has ruined the lake in the past. There will also be another underground pipe from the equalization wetland to the existing river channel that will allow the city to back-feed water into the river channel when additional storage is needed, usually in the winter.

All these wetland and aquatic features will create buffer zones for additional wildlife habitat, much of it remote and some restricted. The lake itself will be developed on only one side next to the area that is already being maintained for typical park activities and camping. Fishing will be the biggest recreational attraction. The area will have a catch-and-release policy until testing of fish verifies that they are safe to eat.

Several years ago, Ulysses city officials anticipated that their water treatment facility would need upgrading, so a $5 surcharge was imposed on all city wastewater system users. Most of the money for this project was generated from this surcharge, with additional grants coming from the Playa Lakes Joint Venture and the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams . The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks provided technical assistance. The project was designed by Dennis Haag of Tetra Tech Engineering.

Pending approval from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment , project completion is expected by late next spring. For more information, contact the city of Ulysses at 620-353-1720.