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Archive for Friday, December 28, 2001

Eagle issue

December 28, 2001

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With all of the other activity on and near the Kansas River, would eagles flying overhead even notice pedestrians on the Riverfront Plaza promenade?

Most people like to do what is necessary, within reason, to protect animals, fish or birds that have been placed on the endangered species list.

In many cases, the public's efforts to protect such creatures have resulted in stunning recoveries for the endangered animals, fish or birds, and such success stories encourage greater public help in future restoration efforts.

Some years ago, the bald eagle was classified as endangered, but the success of various protective efforts later made it possible to remove the majestic bird from the list. Sightings of bald eagles, our national symbol, are frequent in this area and always are thrilling.

In light of the eagle being taken off the endangered species list, it is difficult to understand the reasoning of either the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or perhaps the city of Lawrence concerning the regulation of several sites near the Kansas River dam just east of City Hall.

When the eagle was on the endangered list, the promenade beside Riverfront Plaza was placed off-limits during the winter because it was thought that people on this walkway would disturb the eagles as they hunted for fish in the open water below the dam.

Earlier this year, a major construction project was started to reinforce and rebuild the Kansas River dam, and tall cranes were positioned on a temporary dike built below the dam. Massive steel piers are hammered into the riverbed, and there is substantial construction activity.

Apparently, in the eyes of the Corps or city officials, a handful of individuals gathered on the promenade merely to enjoy the walk or watch an eagle is more disruptive or dangerous to the eagles than the large equipment, the workers, the noise and the activity associated with the dam project.

When asked about the current situation, Corps and city officials said the ban on pedestrians on the promenade remains in force and construction can continue on the dam project.

The eagles no longer are on the endangered list, and there was ample open water at the time of the recent announcement. Traffic continues on the busy bridge, construction is allowed to continue on the dam and there is no ban on people lining the levee on the north side of the river. Nevertheless, through some difficult-to-understand reasoning by officials, people are not allowed on the riverfront walkway.

It doesn't make sense, and it doesn't seem right. It would be interesting to know what the eagles think.

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