Businesses hope to increase dredging along Kansas River; environmentalists warn process is destructive

Several area companies hope to increase the amount of sand and gravel dredged from the Kansas River by 1 million tons per year.

But before that happens, the public has the opportunity to weigh in.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for issuing dredging permits, is accepting public comment until Dec. 9 regarding proposals by five companies for new permits on 13 locations — including several in or near Lawrence — along an 80-mile stretch of the Kansas River, from Shawnee County to Wyandotte County.

The current dredging permit, which expires at the end of 2012, authorizes five companies to dredge 2.2 million tons annually from 10 sites. The new proposals, by the same five companies, seek to increase the tonnage dredged to 3.2 million. If a new permit is issued, it will run from 2013 to the end of 2017.

Environmental advocates, including Friends of the Kaw, say the increase is detrimental to the water supply and natural habitats in the area.

“River dredging is very destructive, and the cumulative effects are not in the public interest,” said Laura Calwell, representative for Friends of the Kaw, a local environmental advocacy group. “Dredging stirs up sediments and industrial pollutants that threaten our drinking water.”

Calwell said her group has advocated for a decrease and eventual stop to dredging on the river, or, at the very least, no increase to the current tonnage limits.

Kale Horton, with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City Regulatory Office, said the decision process for the permits will take place over the next year, and could include adjustments to the tonnage limits requested by the companies.

“It’s a back and forth,” said Horton, who encouraged citizens to contact his office to comment.

Horton can be contacted by email at kale.e.horton@usace.army.mil, or by phone at (816) 389-3656.

By Shaun Hittle

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