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Archive for Friday, May 10, 1996

SAND-DREDGING PERMITS ON HOLD

May 10, 1996

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Requests to mine sand on an undredged section of the Kansas River are no longer on hold.

Sand dredgers will know by the end of the summer whether they'll be allowed to set up operations on the Kansas River west of Lawrence.

``Within the next several months I would hope that we would have a decision,'' said Robert Smith, a biologist in charge of permits at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Kansas City, Mo.

Two applications to begin in-stream sand dredging in Jefferson County had been on hold, pending action by the Kansas Legislature on a proposal for a two-year moratorium on new dredging permits on the Kansas River west of Lawrence. The Kansas Senate passed the moratorium this spring, but it died in the House.

The applications will be reviewed even though the Legislature approved a two-year study of the river's recreation potential.

``There is nothing that would necessitate our waiting any longer,'' Smith said.

The first application to be decided was filed by Victory Sand & Gravel Co., a company with offices in Topeka and Kansas City, to install a dredging operation on the Kaw near Perry. The plant would be located off U.S. Highway 24, near the Hamm Quarries and about six miles upstream from the Bowersock Dam.

A second application was filed by Lawrence-based Penny's Concrete, which wants to dredge at a site near Newman, eight miles upstream from the proposed Victory location.

Lawrence attorney Lance Burr -- a co-founder of Friends of the Kaw, one of the environmental groups that has fought expansion of dredging on the river -- said he objected to the permit review process moving forward before the recreational corridor study has been done.

``It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do the study for recreational purposes if the dredgers are going to be allowed to go in,'' Burr said.

Environmentalists have maintained that dredging would damage the river and wildlife habitat and create safety hazards for canoeists.

``We've already given up the lower 53'' miles of the river, Burr said, referring to the stretch from Lawrence to Kansas City.

Peter Powell, chief executive of Builders Sand Co., which owns Victory, said he still believed the river can be shared and that the needs of both dredgers and environmentalists can be met.

``I think we can get along,'' Powell said. ``I think we can find compromise.''

He said that planning is just beginning for an education center near the dredging plant that would help people understand the river's variety of functions, including environmental, recreational and industrial uses.

``I think it's important that the community at large, particularly the young people, understand that there are mixed needs from the river,'' Powell said.

Smith of the Corps of Engineers said there is nothing in the agency's regulatory plan that would prohibit dredging from commencing on the Kansas River above Lawrence. However, Smith said his agency had discretion to weigh other public concerns in making a decision.

In addition to a public hearing last year that was attended by nearly 200 people, the Corps has received hundreds of letters from the public about the dredging proposal.

``What we've got to do now is to balance all of those concerns,'' Smith said. ``Our goal is to make a decision that is in the public interest.''

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