MARQUETTE - Marquette County officials are exploring whether well pumping modifications can be made to automated equipment at K.I. Sawyer in a continuing effort to try to rebound water levels in Martin Lake.
The Marquette County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to have workers determine whether well numbers 9 and 10 could be reduced to pumping 3.6 percent of the total water usage at K.I. Sawyer, using the automated pumping system.
County staff will report back to the panel on whether the modifications are possible, the anticipated costs and a timetable for making those adjustments. Currently, workers planned to run pumps for wells 9 and 10 manually for one cycle each per week.
An old dock juts out over dry land in Martin Lake. The lake, located near K.I. Sawyer, has experienced a severe drop in water level, with significant portions of it drying up completely. Now, efforts are underway to reduce pumping from wells at K.I. Sawyer. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
In recent weeks, some county officials, including county board Chairwoman Deborah Pellow and administrator Scott Erbisch, have visited the lake and have substantiated lake resident and property owner claims the water level of the 26-acre lake is low.
Lakefront property owners have been concerned about significant decline in the levels of Sporley and especially Martin Lake, where boat docks jut into the air over dry land. Many think the problem is the result of natural factors including drought, evaporation, but also the pumping of wells 9 and 10, which provide water for residential, commercial, industrial and fire protection needs.
A previous governmental study into the problem was inconclusive.
On Tuesday, residents provided the county board with historical information showing the lake level problem had occurred in the early 1990s and was rectified when pumping ceased. Residents said the most recent dramatic drop in water level began in 2009 or 2010.
Residents then raised the issue with Sawyer officials last September.
The residents asked the board this week to cease all pumping from the two wells and cap them permanently. County board Chairwoman Deborah Pellow said the well can't be decommissioned without back-up wells in place. Commissioner Bill Nordeen said he wants to discuss the issue with U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, to see if federal funding might be available to finance drilling for new wells, which would allow wells 9 and 10 to be capped.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.