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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Environmental assessment of river operations a positive step

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it has determined that an Environmental Impact Statement will be necessary before dredging operations may be reauthorized in the Kansas River.
    This is a good thing for those who love the Kansas River, those who pay taxes for infrastructure like bridges, and for farm land adjacent to the river near those locations where dredging presently occurs.
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  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it has determined that an Environmental Impact Statement will be necessary before dredging operations may be reauthorized in the Kansas River.
    This is a good thing for those who love the Kansas River, those who pay taxes for infrastructure like bridges, and for farm land adjacent to the river near those locations where dredging presently occurs.
    The Corps had been studying the effects of current operations and was not able to conclude there are no potentially significant impacts associated with activities proposed by the dredging companies.
    The National Environmental Policy Act requires a "Finding of No Significant Impact," or what we call FONSI, for the Corps to grant a permit following the completion of an Environmental Assessment.
    The Corps received 382 comments from the public on the EA, of which 357 were in opposition to continued in-river dredging. The public will again have the opportunity to comment and to participate in the EIS process when it begins.
    There are six sand and gravel companies currently proposing to dredge in 12 locations in the Kansas River, and their permits are valid through July 31, 2014.
    It has always been the opinion of those who use the river for recreation, and of many who farm in the Kansas River floodplain in those reaches where they permit sand dredging, that sand should be mined from the adjacent floodplain lands and not from the river bed itself.
    When you remove sand from the river, it has to be replaced from somewhere and it comes from the edges of the river and from around bridge pilings, thereby weakening the bridges.
    If you have boated on the Kansas River, you can see drainage pipes hanging way out from some of the banks that were at one time buried deep in the land. Sand has a very low angle of repose.
    That means that it can only stand up at a small angle when you make a cut into it.  Some soils can maintain almost a vertical wall, but sand falls down very quickly, especially if it's part of the river bank.
    Stopping dredging will not end our supply of sand because it can be mined directly from the floodplain.
    An example is the large pond that you see on the left side of I-70, just before you get to Lawrence. The owner apparently sold the sand, which was mined, and what is left is a large body of water.
    We found this to be quite common in Germany on the upper reaches of the Danube or Donau River, where gravel was mined from the floodplain and not from the river bed itself.
    It might make the cost of sand go up, which could also increase the cost of concrete locally, but that will depend on how much landowners have to be paid for the sand.  
    Page 2 of 2 - At least they will save the cost of river dredges and they will be paying directly to the landowners. Those river dredges, by the way, are very dangerous for boaters as they anchor the barges with heavy cables to both banks.
    Boaters then have to negotiate their way under these cables, and that is not terribly safe, especially for canoers.
    The Kansas River belongs to all of us, and it would be about time that one special interest did not have special rights to the river and its sand.
    I'm pretty certain that we will also see an increase in recreational use of the river if dredging is eliminated from the Kansas River. We can only hope, and of course comment to the Corps when the time is right.
    All of the above information concerning NEPA applications of dredging was taken from a Corps news release.

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