A controversial sand-dredging proposal on the Kansas River got the thumbs-down from the Douglas County Commission.
Douglas County commissioners have joined the wave of opposition to a Kansas River sand-dredging proposal by passing a resolution asking federal officials to deny a permit for the project.
A dozen opponents of Victory Sand & Gravel Co.'s plan to dredge six miles upstream from the Bowersock Dam had addressed the commission Wednesday evening when Chairman Louie McElhaney cut off public comment and put the issue to a vote.
Among the speakers was 9-year-old Kate Naramore, who will be a fourth-grader at Grant School. She urged commissioners to make a strong statement to sand dredgers about the impact she thinks the project would have on the river's ecology.
``They're going to really affect the wildlife and the health of the Kansas River and the Kansas citizens,'' she said.
McElhaney and Commissioner Jim Chappell supported the resolution, which is similar to one passed Tuesday by the Lawrence City Commission, asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject the Merriam-based company's proposal to set up the plant near Perry, just inside the Jefferson County line.
Victory representatives, who spoke at the city commission meeting Tuesday and argued that dredging can be compatible with the environment, did not attend the county meeting.
That bothered Commissioner Mark Buhler, who abstained from the vote saying he didn't think Douglas County had jurisdiction in the matter and that he was being asked to take a stand without hearing Victory's side of the issue.
But Buhler said he was writing a letter to corps officials and Jefferson County commissioners urging them to weigh the issue carefully.
``I don't want this misinterpreted that I don't care about people who use the Kaw,'' Buhler said after the meeting. ``The environmental concerns are real.''
Among the concerns highlighted by opponents is the dredging operation's potential threat to an unlined, abandoned municipal landfill just above the Bowersock Dam. Dredging opponents say the plant could destabilize the river's banks and trigger channel changes that would unearth the dump.
``We should remember that we're downriver. We are the people who are going to be affected by it,'' said Lawrence City Commissioner Allen Levine.
Speakers also emphasized that the river is public property used by canoeists and naturalists.
``It would be like turning over one of our public parks for industrial use,'' said Bev Worster, president of the Douglas County Preservation Alliance.
Lance Burr, a representative of Friends of the Kaw, said that cost-effective alternatives to instream dredging exist and that he has talked to several land owners willing to lease or sell land that has minable sand deposits.
Corps officials are expected to issue a decision late this summer on Victory's permit application. The deadline for public comment on the application is June 13.
- For additional news from Wednesday's county commission meeting, see page 4B.