Consultants will evaluate the cultural, spiritual and historical significance of the Baker Wetlands.
Douglas County has hired two consulting firms to study the historical and cultural significance of the Baker Wetlands.
The firms' findings are needed to fulfill federal requirements in drafting a proposal to route the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway along 31st Street.
"There's some additional work that needs to be done in this area, so we've hired these two firms to get it done," said Craig Weinaug, Douglas County administrator.
The firms are Ethnoscience of Billings, Mont., and Paul Brockington and Associates of Northcross, Ga.
Weinaug said the two firms would study the spiritual and cultural issues surrounding the wetlands and evaluate the site's historical significance.
The Haskell Indian Nations University Board of Regents and several student organizations oppose the 31st Street route, saying it would harm the wetlands and spiritual areas on the southern part of the Haskell campus.
Sherri Deaver, head of Ethnoscience, and Paul Brockington toured the wetlands and visited with Haskell officials last week.
"I visited with them for a long time -- a lot of people did," said Diane Reyner, Haskell Student Senate vice president. "Everyone is willing to provide them with all the information they need to make an impartial evaluation."
It's unclear when the firms will complete their studies.
"At this point," Weinaug said, "they're looking at what information is already out there, what needs to be developed and how it can all be put together."
The completed studies will be part of the proposed project's federally required environmental impact statement.
Copies of the initial proposal are available for viewing at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., as well as the libraries at Haskell and Kansas University. The proposal also can be found at the Journal-World Web site, www.ljworld.com/extras/slt/draft-slt4f2319.html
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