A county drainage district has filed a lawsuit against Baker University, asking a court to compel the clearing of a drainage ditch on university property.
At the center of the dispute are wetlands on both sides of 31st Street, the same wetlands caught up in the controversy surrounding the South Lawrence Trafficway.
In the petition, filed Tuesday, The Wakarusa-Haskell-Eudora Drainage District states that it requested access to the land south of 31st Street "in order to remove by hand certain obstructions including beaver dams."
The suit, filed in Douglas County District Court, goes on to state that the district's request is "reasonable in that clearing obstructions from the drainage ditch will aid in the flow of water and drainage of lands located upstream."
The Douglas County Commission created the district to oversee functions such as flood prevention and agricultural drainage for areas of the county south of Lawrence.
John Fuller, public information officer for Baker, said university officials had not yet seen the lawsuit. He said the primary concern about the district's request was the effect it would have on the wetlands.
"Those beaver dams are a natural part of the wetland system," said Chuck Haines, a biology professor at Haskell Indian Nations University, which also uses wetlands for study and spiritual activities.
"We have some muskrats down there. They basically live right by the water. They need the wetland plants. That would change," he said. "By taking the beaver dams out, you would affect everything in the system."