Archive for Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Report details SLT’s effects on Haskell

March 23, 1999


— With an earthen berm or a wall, the traffic noise heard at Haskell Indian Nations University after the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway along 31st Street would actually be less than what is heard there now, according to a draft report released Monday.

Called a 4(f) statement, the federally mandated report is supposed to detail how the completion of the trafficway would affect the historical aspects of Haskell, including its spiritual and cultural components. It includes a suggested plan for how those effects might be lessened.

When completed, the statement will become a part of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which documents the effect the roadway will have on the surrounding area. Douglas County is trying to complete the SEIS by June 1.

Haskell President Bob Martin said the proponents of the trafficway have asked him for a mitigation proposal, but the university is unwilling to provide that or comment officially until the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is completed.

The draft 4(f) statement released Monday will be mailed to 28 county, state and federal agencies for comment. Copies also will be mailed to the Lawrence Public Library, the Kansas University library, Haskell's library and the State Library in Topeka for public viewing.

The county will hold a public information meeting on the statement in April.

It includes results of a noise study done this year and mentions, in particular, the traffic noise heard at Haskell's sweat lodge and medicine wheel, which are used by the faculty and students for prayer and American Indian ceremonies.

An original study done in 1994 indicated the additional noise from a completed trafficway would not exceed maximum standards set by the Federal Highway Administration for land where serenity and quiet are essential.

The 1994 study was criticized by trafficway opponents for when and where sound measurements were taken.

The new study uses a higher projected traffic level and a higher percentage of trucks. It specifically mentions noise measurements taken at the sweat lodge and medicine wheel.

Regardless of the findings, any traffic noise will disturb the outdoor ceremonies conducted by students and faculty, said Pemina Yellow Bird, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that has delayed the construction of the trafficway.

"I don't care how many earthen walls they build, how many trees they plant," Yellow Bird said. "It would be like me driving a big old construction truck right through the middle of your church. Those students who go there for solace and guidance and healing, they are going to have a hard time because of that road."

According to the report, 12 sites on Haskell campus, including the stadium and cemetery, are listed as National Historic Landmarks.

The entire campus, in fact, can be considered a historic property, according to a letter included in the report from Ramon Powers, state historic preservation officer.

In the letter, Powers said the trafficway would not have an effect on those buildings and the cemetery.

But Powers went on to say that the wetlands have no historic integrity themselves.

Powers said the historical value of the property was connected to the farm and livestock operation run by Haskell on the property during the early 1900s.

Because the property has become a wetlands site, the physical features associated with farming are gone.

But the trafficway opponents say the value of those wetlands and their connection to Haskell reaches beyond their identity as farmland.

"It has a very, very long history with those wetlands," Yellow Bird said.

She said the area between Haskell and the Wakarusa River to the south was the obvious retreat for Haskell students in the early years when students were punished for speaking their own language.

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