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Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2001

KDOT studies Baker Wetlands

Consultants to look for graves, hear public

January 24, 2001

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State-hired consultants later this week will be in Lawrence searching for graves and listening to public reaction to an idea for a new wetlands.

Both activities stem from efforts to revive possible completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

This weekend, Larry Conyers, professor of anthropology at the University of Denver, will lead a small group looking for burial sites of former Haskell Institute students in the Baker Wetlands.

Conyers said he has performed similar studies in pioneer, military and American Indian cemeteries in California for the past six years. He said he and two of his graduate students will use ground-penetrating radar and other equipment to look for changes in the ground that could possibly be associated with human remains.

"We've had real success with it on other grave sites," he said.

Conyers was hired by the Kansas Department of Transportation through Carter and Burgess, a Denver consultant.

On a second front, Virgil Brack of Environmental Solutions and Innovations of Cincinnati, will conduct a public meeting Friday about proposed man-made wetlands. KDOT is considering building about 400 acres of new wetlands adjacent to the existing Baker Wetlands to mitigate any damage a completed trafficway might do.

Mike Rees, KDOT's chief counsel, said he hopes to get the bypass, originally envisioned to connect Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence and Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence, back on track. The eastern third of the project has for years been mired in controversy.

Brack said people are welcome to come to the meeting to discuss the proposed project, ecology and alternatives for the wetlands. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. Friday at the South Park Recreation Center, 1141 Mass.

Bob Eye, an attorney for the Wetlands Preservation Organization, a group of Haskell students, alumni and faculty, said he was pleased the wetlands discussion would take place in the open, but he still has concerns about the project.

"We are still skeptical of the capacity to create wetlands," he said. "While it's a worthy goal, the worthier goal is to protect the wetlands we already have."

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