Baker University has taken the first step in fighting a lawsuit to remove beaver dams from its wetlands.
Baker University said drainage district officials, not the beavers they hope to displace, obstructed a ditch that runs through wetlands south of Lawrence.
Baker levels the allegation in its answer to a lawsuit filed this summer by the Wakarusa-Haskell-Eudora Drainage District. The district sued to gain permission to remove two beaver dams that are located in the Baker wetlands.
The district said it needs to remove the dams to fulfill its obligation to maintain the flow of water to the Wakarusa River south of Lawrence. Last month the Douglas County Commission sided with the district by turning down a Baker request to leave the district.
Even so, John Bennett, attorney for the drainage district, said the district is awaiting the lawsuit's outcome before trying to remove the dams.
``Until that's resolved by a court, we won't be trying to do anything,'' he said.
The ditch runs parallel to 31st Street, between Louisiana Street and Haskell Avenue. Vince Monslow, Baker's attorney, said the flow of water is impeded upstream from the beaver dams by dirt that was deposited near 31st and Louisiana when the Naismith Canal was built in the early 1970s. Monslow said drainage district officials allowed that dirt to be placed there.
``Their putting that dirt there made it so that creek could never be used for drainage from the north and the west again,'' Monslow said. ``So why is it that they want to take out these beaver dams now, when they already acquiesced to the biggest blockage there?''
In the court filing, Baker also:
- Disputed the drainage district's contention that the dams would be removed by hand, using saws. Monslow maintains that district officials have discussed using explosive charges with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.
- Asked that the lawsuit be moved to U.S. District Court since the property is a federally protected wetlands area.