Archive for Friday, March 25, 1994


March 25, 1994


— A rapidly changing river presents a quandary for federal officials and farmers north of Eudora.

The group of 23 people huddled on the eroding bank of the Kaw, looking for answers.

Members of the crowd would point at the Kansas River, showing how it is changing course, threatening farms, roads and bridges.

Most looked to David D. Spears, state director of Sen. Bob Dole's office, for a solution. But Spears had questions of his own.

"I don't know what the answer is," he said.

Representatives from Dole's office, U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers' office, Douglas County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with land owners Thursday and plan to meet again in about three weeks.

Each possible answer has another question or a bad result attached:

  • Let nature take its course. That choice might allow the river to wash out the Eudora bridge or render it useless, engineers said, forcing 3,000 commuters and farmers who travel it daily to drive 22 miles farther to the nearest crossing.

Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell said there were plans to resurface the bridge within two years.

"We're going to spend $2 million, and it kind of concerns me if we don't have a bridge soon thereafter," he said.

  • Reinforce the rock jetties that now drown under the fickle flow just west of the bridge. But who pays? It's the county's bridge, the state's land and the corps' regulations.

Spears said whatever jurisdiction is responsible would be "pennies ahead" to act now, before a disaster.

Chappell agreed. "I don't want to have that end of the bridge wash into the river, and then say, 'Oh, we have a problem.' "

  • Put in heavy rock material on the banks of the peninsula on the north side of the river's Eudora bend. The river could cleave off the peninsula, said Wakefield Dort Jr., professor emeritus of geology at Kansas University. There is about a square mile of farmland there. Land owners said they did not have the means to afford the rock.

Corps officials said they could not act unless there was an "imminent danger."

"What is an imminent danger of losing the road, and say, the fiber optic line?" asked John Pendleton, a farmer whose land is on the peninsula.

  • Allow Kaw Sand Co. to operate a new sand dredging plant on the east side of the peninsula.

Dave Penny of Kaw Sand said dredging would draw the river back into its pre-flood course, reducing its threat to the bottomlands.

The corps opposes the dredging idea because of potential environmental effects. Corps engineers also doubt that dredging will significantly stop the river's course change.

Penny and land owners will continue a dialog with the corps in hopes of getting an exception to regulations.

"Something has to be done," Penny said, "and the government has no money. I can afford to do it."

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