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Watershed Targeted For Study

DALLAS -- A study will begin soon assessing current conditions and possible management strategies for the watershed feeding the city of Dallas' sole source of water, Rickreall Creek.

A contract is in the works with Polk Soil and Water Conservative District to perform a number of assessments, including water quality and resource inventories in the watershed, Dallas City Manager Jerry Wyatt said.

He said a city watershed working group was formed about a year ago to evaluate the city's current water source and the need for additional sources in the future.

"We thought the first thing we should look at is what we have now," Wyatt said, noting the group determined much more information was needed before any strategies could be considered.

Management plans could include purchasing of property in the watershed -- the city only owns a small parcel adjacent to Mercer Dam and the reservoir -- or conservation easements for sensitive areas.

"It's a good source of water, but it's a single source," Wyatt said. "We are fine now, but we are looking into the future."

Polk Soil and Water will perform inventories on the timber, fish and wildlife habitat, invasive species, and threatened and endangered species. A stream inventory -- an assessment of stream conditions, including vegetation and soil erosion and deposition around streams -- water quantity modeling, or studying how water flows through the watershed, and water quality monitoring will be part of the study as well.

Wyatt said the city wants to find out the market value of the timber for consideration of possible purchase of property within the watershed. Timber management practices of watershed property owners -- Forest Capital and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management -- are also of interest to the city, especially in areas close to streams.

He said the study will include the feasibility of opening up parts of the watershed for recreation.

The study will cost the city $50,000. PSWCD's

proposed estimated cost to perform the work involved is about $96,000.

Nathan Slaven, PSWCD forestry technician and manager on the assessment project, said the conservation district is contributing more than $46,000 in labor to put the cost within the city's budget.

He said PSWCD sees a mutual benefit to completing the study.

Slaven said not only will the city have enough information to actively protect its water source, the district will have detailed information about what is happening throughout Rickreall Watershed.

The holistic approach to evaluating the conditions in the watershed will allow the conservation district, the city and property owners to understand the ecological relationships that exist when forming conservation and management plans.

"If we know what is going on in the upper part, we should be able to determine what will happen in the lower watershed," Slaven said. "We will end up with a full management strategy, which is unheard of."

Wyatt said most of the work will happen in the summer and fall. The city would like to see the assessment completed by December of this year.

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