WICHITA CO. (KFDX/KJTL) — Funding to lower the salt levels in local lakes and rivers could be cut from the federal budget.
Wichita Falls and Wichita County officials are concerned and their priorities are to make requests so that they can keep this more than 30-year project going.
“We really need the chloride control project to continue to operate,” Wichita Falls Director of Public Works Russell Schreiber said.
Since the 1950’s, the U.S. Army’s corps of engineers began studies on the chloride control project.
The project that focused on reducing chloride loading in the upper red river basin received federal funding in 1986.
But President Joe Biden’s recent budget proposal does not have funding for the project in site.
“If the chloride control project were to cease to operate, then we would expect the chlorides to increase in Lake Kemp and ultimately could render our O process inadequate,” Schreiber said.
The City of Wichita Falls spent $67 million to install a reverse osmosis system at the city’s water treatment plant that filters salt out of Lake Kemp.
Schreiber says cutting funds from the project would drive up the costs of operation and affect drinking water.
“There could come a point in time where the salt concentration is too concentrated at all for us to recover any of it. So at that point we have to make a decision how do we handle that water, how do we treat that water,” Schreiber said.
And this project not only affects the city, but also parts of Wichita County.
But County Commissioner Jeff Watts says the county could possibly use money it received from the American Rescue Plan Act if the funding is cut.
“A great deal of confidence in their ability to analyze the situation and what’s gonna be best for the region after we see what we can do to shore this up,” Watts said.
As for right now, city officials are still meeting with government officials to gather federal funding for the project.
And while they are concerned, Schreiber says it’s not time to panic just yet.
“We don’t know for sure exactly what the outcome’s going to be. Approach this methodically. Requesting funding, requesting this project continue to operate,” Schreiber said.
Both men say they have reached out to Congressman Ronny Jackson.
Jackson responded with the statement below:
“President Biden’s budget proposal includes $1.25 billion for climate projects overseas, but doesn’t include the $1.5 million needed to keep the Chloride Control Project going. That tells you everything you need to know about his priorities. I am including continued funding for the Chloride Control Project as one of my appropriations requests in Congress. If my request is approved, this funding will make sure the City of Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Force Base, the agricultural irrigation, and surrounding areas can have safe, drinkable water for years to come.”Rep. Ronny Jackson TX-13