CHEROKEE COUNTY -- Local governments within Cherokee County have joined forces with the Quapaw Tribe to build a waste water treatment system viewed as a vital part of infrastructure to support future economic development in southeast Kansas.

Recently established as the Shoal Creek Basin Regional Waste Water Authority, the team effort is made up of official representatives of the Cherokee County Commission, the cities of Galena and Baxter Springs, and the Business Committee of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, whose Downstream Casino Resort is located partly in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

The goal is to establish a waste water treatment system which, unlike the lagoon systems currently serving southeast Chreokee county's communities, will have the capability to remove dissolved metals and industrial chemicals, and will provide much better overall water treatment. The Quapaw Tribe and Downstream brought the various governmental entities together and is providing capital to put things in motion.

"Economic growth for the whole region is what Downstream Casino is all about," Quapaw Chairman John Berrey said. "Another very important aspect of this waste water plan is cleaning up the Spring River. We will improve our economic viability and quality of life for the region by ceasing to pollute the Spring River."

Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby described the plan as a winning proposition for all parties.

"The ability to treat industrial waste water is one of the major keys to unlocking the region's economic potential," Oglesby said. "This new entity is a strong partnership that can get it done, and everyone is committed."

Cherokee County Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand said: "We have talked for years about the county's need for mechanical waste water treatment, but it always seemed like an unattainable goal. Now, with this new partnership we are feeling like it is not only possible but it's really going to happen. It will make us far more competitive in recruiting business and industry to the region."

Baxter Springs Mayor Jenifer Bingham said: "This plan will substantially lower the financial burden that our city would face in bringing this system to our town. Chairman Berrey and the Tribe have worked diligently with Baxter as well as surrounding cities to help bring us up to date with our water management system, and in return enrich the lives of area citizens with 21st century technology. We greatly appreciate their continued support and generosity."

Kevin Cure, legal counsel to Cherokee County and the city of Galena, was instrumental in writing and gaining approval of the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement that established the new Authority. He said the Kansas Attorney General's office commented that it is possible this was the first such Interlocal Agreement of its kind in Kansas, with the purpose of establishing waste water treatment.

Now that the alliance is formed, the next step for Shoal Creek Basin Regional Waste Water Authority is to hire an engineering consultant to complete a Preliminary Engineering Report. It will then use that report to apply for various grants and loans through the USDA's Rural Development programs for planning and, eventually, construction of the system.