Reconstruction underway at KU’s Potter Lake to preserve lake’s health, bring new life

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Potter Lake on the University of Kansas campus is getting a “makeover” this summer, according to KU, and it’s started with dredging the lake.

The major project has begun. It will also include rebuilding portions of the original edge wall, and improving the spillway and sediment basin, according to a recent KU News article.

The turtles, frogs, snakes and other reptiles that live in the lake have been relocated to a pond in KU’s West District as the work has gotten underway, according to KU.

The lake bed — originally up to 18 feet deep in some spots — will be lowered, as “erosion has carried soil from the surrounding slopes to make Potter Lake shallower,” according to KU. “This shallower lake bed creates a number of problems, including the proliferation of lily pads and a lack of oxygen needed for a healthy ecosystem.”

The work should help prepare the lake for new life and preserve its long-term health. Additionally, the nutrient-rich material extracted from the lake will be sold to area farmers for their fields, according to KU.

“We assembled 14 ‘Super Friends’ of Potter Lake from environmental studies; ecology & evolutionary biology; architecture; geography; professional studies; English; civil, environmental & architectural engineering; and urban planning,” Bonnie Johnson, director and professor in urban planning, said in the KU News article.

Reconstruction should be completed before the start of the fall semester, but the lake will probably take between a year and 18 months to refill naturally with rain and melting snow.

“The natural process is more environmentally responsible and less expensive than using the approximately 4 million gallons of treated city water required — the amount of water an average Lawrence household would use in 78 years,” according to KU.

The lake, originally constructed in 1911 as a reservoir in case of fire on campus, has become a favorite spot on campus for generations of Jayhawks.

It has also become the temporary resting place for a number of goalposts over the years following KU football victories, such as the win over Oklahoma State University in November 2022.

Here are some photos of the lake at that time, where those lily pads are clearly visible:

Also, the Douglas County Underwater Search and Recovery Team in training for rescue missions in November 2023 “netted the crossbar believed to be from the KU victory over West Virginia in November 2013,” a spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

A portion of the $1.2 million cost for the project will be funded by a donation “in memory of a former student who valued the beauty and serenity of Potter Lake,” according to KU.

Read more in the KU News article at this link.

Tom Harper Potter Lake, May 22, 2024
Tom Harper
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