Baker University will meet with opposition in its attempt to extricate its wetlands from a county drainage district.
Baker University hopes to settle a drainage ditch controversy by having its 600-acre wetlands removed from a county drainage district's jurisdiction.
Citing environmental concerns, Baker University has asked the Douglas County Commission for permission to detach its wetlands from the Wakarusa-Haskell-Eudora Drainage District. The commission is scheduled to hear the request at its meeting Aug. 24.
``The wetlands is the wetlands,'' said George Blackwood, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney representing Baker. ``The use of that area seems inconsistent with drainage district activities.''
The district sued Baker earlier this month to gain permission to clear the drainage ditch between 31st Street and a levee that borders the wetlands, which lie to the south, between Iowa Street and Haskell Avenue. Those are the same wetlands that have been at issue in the controversy over construction of the eastern portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
John Bennett, an Overland Park attorney representing the district, said dead trees and beaver dams are blocking the flow of water through the ditch. The district wants to go in and manually remove those obstructions.
Blackwood says the university had denied the district access to the property for fear that clearing the ditch would have an adverse effect on the wetlands.
But Bennett said this morning that those concerns are unfounded because a levee divides the ditch from the wetlands.
``We aren't trying to drain their wetlands, that's for sure,'' Bennett said.
He added that the problem has become complicated because runoff from development on Iowa Street south of 31st is draining eastward into the ditch rather than heading south into the Wakarusa River.
``It takes a smaller and smaller rain to cause a problem on that property because the ditch hasn't been cleared out,'' Bennett said.
Blackwood maintains that clearing the ditch can't help but upset the ecology of the wetlands.
``The ecosystem along that drainage ditch includes beaver dams and plant life,'' he said.