Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

KDOT could file lawsuit over trafficway

Groups that oppose project through wetlands would be forced to make case in court

September 4, 2005


The Kansas Department of Transportation could file a lawsuit by the end of this year to resolve legal questions that have stalled completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Sally Howard, chief counsel for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said her staff was exploring legal action to force groups that oppose completing the road through the Baker Wetlands to bring their arguments to court.

"I think it would be realistic to say that could happen by the end of the year," Howard said of a possible federal lawsuit.

Howard said it was obvious opponents of a 32nd Street route for the bypass do not have immediate plans to file a lawsuit challenging the project.

But KDOT needs to resolve the project's legal issues before it can properly lobby to fund the project. It has been estimated that about $110 million in funding is needed to complete the bypass, which would connect Interstate 70 west of town with Kansas Highway 10 east of town.

The bypass has been completed from Interstate 70 to Iowa Street - curving around southwest Lawrence - but the final leg of the trafficway has been embroiled in controversy for more than a decade as environmentalists and members of the Haskell Indian Nations University community have argued the road would severely damage the wetlands area adjacent to the Haskell campus.

Mayor Boog Highberger said he hoped KDOT would not initiate a lawsuit.

When he began his mayoral year term in April, Highberger said one of his primary goals would be to create a community consensus that the current plans to build the road through the wetlands should be abandoned and that the road instead should be built south of the Wakarusa River.

"I don't have a consensus to present yet, but I still believe that it is out there," Highberger said.

But Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson, a supporter of the 32nd Street route, said he believed KDOT needed to move forward.

"We're in a standoff situation right now," Johnson said. "I think KDOT is coming to the conclusion that they're going to have to initiate an action to get this project moving forward again."

Johnson also said he saw no momentum building for Highberger's idea to move the project south of the Wakarusa River.

"There seems like there are a lot of reasons why that is not going to happen," Johnson said.

Howard also said KDOT wasn't interested in Highberger's south-of-the-river option. She said she met with Highberger about two months ago and told the mayor that KDOT disagreed with his assessment that such a route would create little controversy in the community.

"We just don't believe that is true," Howard said.

Howard said KDOT officials believed the best plan remained the 32nd Street route, which received all the necessary approvals from federal agencies in March 2004.

Part of the approval process included an agreement between Baker University, the owner of the wetlands, and KDOT that would pay the university approximately $8.5 million to create and maintain 300 acres of new wetlands in the area to replace the approximately 65 to 100 acres that would be disturbed by the road project.

Bob Eye, an attorney who represented clients in a lawsuit that successfully stopped the project in the late 1990s, said he didn't have any comments about the possibility of a KDOT lawsuit. But he said he was reviewing boxes of documents related to the decision to build the road through the wetlands. He said there are legitimate questions about whether KDOT ever made a good-faith effort to study the feasibility of a route south of the Wakarusa River.

"We're doing our due diligence to review the documents and the evidence," Eye said.


Jean1183 12 years, 8 months ago

Build the SLT south of the river.

Improve 31st. street to make it 4 lanes all the way to 1057.

Then Lawrence will have an option for bypassing 23rd. street AND K10 can take the tracffic around the city that doesn't have business here.

I hope both: KDOT files the suit and that the city starts improvement of 31st before the end of the year.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

Choose whatever name you want for the people who did it, but the fact that Haskell no longer controls either 31st St or the "Baker" Wetlands is the direct result of an illegal land grab.

That wrong can be rectified by returning the land to Haskell, or you can cram a freeway through this stolen land in your insatiable quest for a little more convenience at someone else's expense.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

The fact is that the wetlands route is not the only logical approach. It is certainly is not the least expensive and cost at this point in time is relevant considering Douglas County taxpayers will be the ones to ante up. There are so many ways to divert traffic that have not been developed or encouraged without spending the $110,000,000 million plus dollars. These are existing douglas county roads that will require developement in addition to a trafficway. Lets make better use of existing resources before asking taxpayers to ante up for new projects that will not guarantee significant relief for the long term.

Douglas County taxpayers are being asked to take on a lot of new tax dollar spending...where is the money?

As far as no momentum for a SOR route or working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority there is such activity and Comm. Bob Johnson had some contact with a small group very recently.

Douglas County Development Corporation, of which Bob Johnson is a founding member, is also a big player in promoting the wetlands route. Until elected to office Bob was/is a very active member and perhaps president of DCDC.

Everything else aside the natural Wetlands is a very good holding area for flood waters. Now without that where does anybody expect floodwaters to go? Try somebodys backyard or living room. Lawrence recently received several inches of rain in a few hours. True Lawrence has put some effort into flood control however where will the enormous quantity of water from the wetlands flow? This needs to be thought out. The new flood control did not prevent flooding throughout Lawrence. Man made devices always more than meet their match.

rtwngr 12 years, 8 months ago

Build the SLT on the 32nd st. alignment. Boog Highberger is incapable of decision making and/or leadership. There is no perfect solution. The 32nd St. is the best choice of all the hard choices. The flood control argument is moot. The 32nd st alignment does not do away with wetlands it only shifts the location. They are still part of the flood plain and flood control. The flooding of the streets of Lawrence are in no way helped or hindered by the existence of the wetlands south of town now. Lots of the flooding problems in Lawrence have to do with improper flood control from earlier development, before water retention was required of commercial development. The best argument of all, against the SLT, is the environmental side. The fact is Lawrence needs the SLT. 32nd St. is the best choice of all the bad choices.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

"Lawrence" doesn't need the SLT. Highway builders would love to get the $110 million for it's construction (probably much more than that, really,) a few land speculators need the SLT (specifically along a 32nd street route) in order to cash in on their investments, a few hundred residents in a hurry to get from SW Lawrence to KC would like a completion of the SLT (along any route,) and anti-environmentalists and Indian-haters want it mostly for reasons of spite. But for the vast majority of Lawrencians, it's construction really wouldn't affect their quality of life in any signifcant way

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 8 months ago

Am I missing something here? Why can't the SLT go down 31st?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

It would make "sense," Macon, because it would satisfy what you want, but mostly because it would be objectionable to people you despise-- environmentalists and Indians, in particular.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

Let's see,

some white people devise a way through congress in the 1950's -1960's to steal lands that were purchased by the treaty provisions of over one hundred ten tribes with Indian monies earned from the theft of lands between 1819 and 1890. The invading immigrant white people have the audacity to say that Indian schooling is welfare, when it was our concept of generosity that allowed some of you to survive as your ancestors invaded OUR LANDS, and spread your diseases, religion, and other problems that have plagued this continent for 513 years. Your luxury of denial and ignorance allows you and most political officials to deny the murderous ways of your ancestors. Currently, KDOT is choosing the way of ignorance to attempt to expedite the process so that massive amounts of evidence that is in the opponent's hands can be exposed to an ignorant public or some of the ignorant polticians who court this ection of the populace.

The even sadder part is watching white scientists who won't live a century making decisions that could affect the land scape for many centuries to come. New Orleans, where my mother is from, had levees built around it beginning in the 1730's. Tribes knew not to have permanent settlements near the water. However, white people have always thought that they could manipulate nature, and look what's happening. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed there in the 1970's with the Bonne Carre Splillway, just as they've failed with the wetlands and the Lakota and other Tribal people on the Missouri River. Yet some white people follow and advocate destruction. Learning takes into their lazy time. Just a thought.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

The screwing is still occuring. The fact that you used redman instead of Mohawk, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Zuni, Creek, or Klamath, is proof of it. I'm being polite here. It's not about us getting our act together. Our act is together. That's why this road was stopped in 1997. The fact that politicians acknowledge us as the U.S. Constitution does now, is proof that our act's together.

The problem lies in misinformed non-native people and politicians. They don't know the U.S. Constitution, they don't care about the EPA, they don't realize anything. The luxury of ignorance allows this.

We have our act together. It's the non-native people who don't acknowledge their own deceitful history, and act as if this is the 1860's, that are the problem. We've waited many decades for non-native people to obey their OWN LAWS concerning our lands. They haven't, and it's time they did.

We had our own responsible and productive economies for thousands of years before Europeans came. Cahokia and Poverty Point are proof of this. Your highways were built across OUR paths.

Lastly, America is a colonial word. A word of genocide of oppression. It came from Amerigo Vespucci, a colonizer whom the Munsee People saw sail by on Long Island in 1524. America is a homicidal fantasy of colonial expansion that still occurs to this day.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

I work 70 hour weeks between my day job and educating the public against the lies they're being fed that you obviously believe. Many of my acquaintances do this also. Kill the stereotype and stop calling me tonto, oh that's right, you probably support the chiefs and think we're all the same. Ignorance again.

Your Welsh ancestors benefitted from the thefts of land that the U.S. Government facilitiated every time white people squatted illegally on reservations in defiance of the laws of your government. There are currently 572 functioning tribal governments in this country who spend half of their time fighting mistruths and ignorance like what I've seen today.

This "Move On" sentiment of yours, as flawed as it is, misses the point. The ignorance of the immigrants of 250 years ago to this country still lives today. It's not in the past, it's now, right as you speak. Oh, and the stereotype of casinos.

Chahta Enterprises, an industrial complex that has companies such as Ford, Hallmark Cards, and Navistar, and Sikorsky Helicopters with operations on the Pearl River Reservation, in Mississippi, employs not only Choctaws, but Europeans and African-Americans. It was started in 1978, way before gaming.

Ho-Chunk Enterprises in Nebraska employees Winnebago Tribal members and supplied tribes in Kansas with fuel until a misinformed Kansas attorney general seized their fuel trucks and put out arrest warrants for tribal leaders with no basis to do so. Three court hearings and much wasted taxpayer's money later, the State of Kansas wound up at the start, beaten and in the wrong.

Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, not you. You didn't give US casinos. Also, if you had the choice, what would you have on tribal lands, spent nuclear rods or casinos? nice choice, eh?

You have a lot to learn.

kcwarpony 12 years, 8 months ago

macon47, Another problem is transportation. For example, Pine Ridge rez is about 4,400 square miles with no major businesses within its boundaries, only small tourist driven businesses. Pine Ridge SD to Rapid City SD is about 110 miles. To Chadron NE it's 54 miles. Rapid City and Chadron are the closest places to find Wal-Mart, Target, grocery stores:and with an average annual income of about $3,700 a lot of Indians have no vehicles. Makes getting to work impossible and leaves you with an unemployment rate at around 80 per cent. This is the same situation at other reservations. Some do venture out from the rez to look for work and sometimes get a job but then we end up working with people who show us no respect, like calling us "Tonto". If you wanted us to work I think you should be encouraging us instead of driving us away.

spikey_mcmarbles, "Why can't the SLT go down 31st?" I might be wrong but I thought that the land that 31st street is on is actually stilled own by Haskell. Does anyone know for sure?

tuschkahouma, Halito! Thank you for the history lesson :)

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm new to the area and didn't know Haskell area is an Indian Reservation. And what's all this Baker business; what do they have to do with it?

Can someone provide me a link where I can get some background?

Is this really a giant issue in Lawrence, or is it just a tempest in a teapot? I must confess that the bridge to nowhere across south Iowa is pretty funny.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

Haskell Indian Nations University is federal land. Title 18, section 1151, part b, makes Haskell "Indian Country" by defined law. Haskell was established by the 43rd-44th U.S. Congress with Indian treaty monies in 1883-84.

Haskell's land holding included 1,103 acres, by 1903, including the wetlands area. WHITE BIA officials ordered Haskell students to drain the wetlands for farming and civilization purposes in the early 1900's. However, by 1934, the Haskell farming program had been transferred to the Chillocco Indian School in Oklahoma.

The federal government's surplusing of Indian Lands with House Resolution 108 also created later laws like Title 25, Chapter 7, Section 293 a, or the Federal Indian School Surplus lands act of 1962, which allowed Baker to facilitate the theft of the wetlands from Haskell between 1957 and 1998, when Baker questionably acquired title to the wetlands. Read the Indian School Surplus lands act of 1962, and you'll see what Baker did. Yes, it's a big deal, and SLT proponents are afraid of the truth.

Baille 12 years, 8 months ago

Hey, Macon! 150 years? Welcome to the Information Age! It brings with it the responsibility to actually explore an opinion before spewing it.

BIA loses billions of Native American money, and not 159 years ago. Of course, the Welsh have always been ignorant, spineless puppets of the British. Of course, that is merely an opinion. I have no idea if there are any facts t o support it other than the inexplicable allure of Tom Jones.

my2cents 12 years, 8 months ago

I was just thinking... Didn't the US Supreme Court just rule in favor of eminent domain. So this law suit doesn't really matter,KDOT will just take it anyway.

And if Baker University owns, or has the title to the wetlands it wouldn't be Federal Property.

So the SLT will happen and KDOT will put it where it wants to.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

The first thing that needs to happen is citizens demanding a different route as KDOT studied many. The wetlands route is not the only option available. This matter could be tied up in court many more years.

The wetlands route will affect the Prairie Park Nature Center to some degree in which more than a million total tax dollars were initially spent. Why wreck this beautiful educational venture and waste tax dollars at the same time?

There is a less expensive SOR option that has not been put on the table. The current plan going through a flood zone requires elevation which is a costly endeavor. Staying SOR and completly out of the wetlands/flood zones requiring fewer bridges and connecting to an existing interchange(#1057) could save a few million.

Taking the SLT south of the river to interchange 1057 and K10 could take traffic north to I 70 as well.

This accomplishes many things. A. Services JOCO and Douglas County traffic going to NW Lawrence or Topeka B. Services the Eudora Business Park east of 1057 C. Services East Hills Business Park and the SE Work Center area west of 1057 D. Diverts traffic out around the city as it should E. Keeps the SLT entirely out of the wetlands F. HNTB has researched SLT/1057 option but was never put on the table H. Reduces traffic substantially on 31st

Working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority could save Douglas County taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Building this road at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Major wetland functions and some of their values.

(Source: Tiner 1998)

Water storage Flood- and storm-damage protection, water source during dry seasons, groundwater recharge, fish and shellfish habitat, water source for fish and wildlife, recreational boating, fishing, shellfishing, waterfowl hunting, livestock watering, ice skating, nature photography, and aesthetic appreciation

Slow water release Flood-damage protection, maintenance of stream flows, maintenance of fresh and saltwater balance in estuaries, linkages with watersheds for wildlife and water-based processes, nutrient transport, and recreational boating

Nutrient retention and cycling Water-quality renovation, peat deposits, increases in plant productivity and aquatic productivity, decreases in eutrophication, pollutant abatement, global cycling of nitrogen, sulfur, methane, and carbon dioxide, reduction of harmful sulfates, production of methane to maintain Earth's protective ozone layer, and mining (peat and limestone)

Sediment retention Water-quality renovation, reduction of sedimentation of waterways, and pollution abatement (retention of contaminants)

Substrate for plants and animals Shoreline stabilization, reduction of flood crests and water's erosive potential, plant-biomass productivity, peat deposits, organic export, fish and wildlife habitats (specialized animals, including rare and endangered species), aquatic productivity, trapping, hunting, fishing, nature observation, production of timber and other natural commodities, livestock grazing, scientific study, environmental education, nature photography, and aesthetic appreciation

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Wetlands Saves Tax Dollars:

Economical and Fiscal

  • Pollution Control Wetlands filter water for free and thus lower the need for, or the loadings into, wastewater and drinking water treatment plants. Further loss of wetlands will lead to increased need for treatment plants and clean-up strategies.

  • Water Supply Wetlands and major retention basins, providing large quantities of clean water for municipalities. Wetland losses will lead to loss of quality water supplies, requiring costly searches for new sources of water.

  • Flood Control Wetlands help control flooding, and thus prevent the need for costly flood control projects. A one-acre wetland holds 330,000 gallons of water if flooded to one foot.

  • Shipping By filtering tributaries and runoff, wetlands hold back vast amounts of sediment that would fill up navigation channels, saving hundreds of millions of tax dollars in dredging costs.

  • Property Protection By preventing flooding and by acting as wave barrier to prevent coastal erosion, wetlands prevent loss of property.

  • Property Values By serving as scenic open space and ad visual and sound buffers, wetlands enhance a community's amenities and therefore its property values.

  • Tourism and Recreation By producing so much wildlife and fish, by serving as scenic open space, and by protecting water quality, wetlands greatly benefit businesses based on fishing, boating, hunting, swimming, and sightseeing, including the lodging, restaurant and service sector.

  • Food Wetlands produce much of the fish harvested by the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, and are the only place where cranberry, wild rice and other wetland crops can be grown.

  • Natural Resources Wetland produce most of the furbearers for the trapping industry. Forest wetlands can be an important source of timber when managed properly.

  • Fiscal and Tax Savings By performing all the above benefits for free, wetlands save billions of tax dollars by avoiding the need for costly flood, erosion, pollution control, dredging and water supply projects. They bring in fiscal revenues by supporting the recreation, tourism, food and service industries. By enhancing residential property values, they maintain higher tax revenues.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

So far, the main argument for the trafficway seems to be petty racist hatred and spite. Is there any wonder Haskell doesn't want thousands of these people driving at high speeds through their sacred lands?

kcwarpony 12 years, 8 months ago

macon47, American Indians (along with just about everyone else) have been pulled away so far from the native (natural) foods that we were intended to eat that it is having an effect on our health and processed foods are a contributing factor. We've gone from the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) and wild game (bison, deer, bear) to potato chips, Pepsi, and cheeseburgers and fries. Our fry bread came about from all the government rations that were mostly flour, lard, and sugar. Even the corn that is grown today has been genetically altered to be much sweeter than its original form.
Diabetes and obesity have become a serious health problem for our people just as it has for everyone else. Indians are not the only overweight people you are seeing today.

cowboy 12 years, 8 months ago

The sooner the Haskell part time lawrencians , fly in protestors , and in general obstructionists decide to become a part of a solution the sooner we can get some decent roads around Lawrence. I put my kid in a K-State this month and you can get around Manhattan quickly because they built some roads. All of the idiots who think 32 nd street is the answer , have you never driven down that area , there are lots of family homes that have been there for decades , not to mention my sacred horses who would be crushed if they had to move.

The wetlands is pure and simple a frigging swamp , manmade at that ! Build an elevated road and get over it , you can still go see your pet mosquitos if you like !


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

Even if it is just a swamp, it's Haskell's swamp. It was given for their use by the US Govt in exchange for the land that you permanently occupy here in Lawrence (just as millions of others do throughout this country.)

You may not like the deal, or figure that since the theft happened decades ago that it's there strictly for your convenience, but sometimes you have to act like a grownup when you don't get your way with property you don't rightfully own.

cowboy 12 years, 8 months ago

It is Bakers swamp bozo , Haskell is simply an interfering party to the discussion.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

I see you come down squarely on the side of accepting stolen property.

But hey, they're just Injuns, aint they, cowboy? Maybe if they get too uppity about "interfering," we can just shoot 'em, and they'll become good Injuns.

cowboy 12 years, 8 months ago

When are you going to quit whining , just let me know which decade or century you'll get over it so we all can plan accordingly.

The British ran my ancestors into starvation and forced immigration some 4-800 tears ago. I have forgivien them and live my life accordingly.

I was raised with native americans and I'm rather respectful of the culture but this is just bulldoo. Civilization tromps all over itself as time goes on , and no one race or culture has a monoply on feeling tromped. Get over it !

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 8 months ago

Whining? You're the one whining for a few more miles of pavement merely for your convenience.

And if you really respect their culture, then why not also repect their property, rather than being complicit in its theft.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 8 months ago

This is an opinion not a fact. The SLT as it stands is planned for commuter traffic. It will be used by commercial traffic. The road is not able to stand the weight of the large trucks that will be using it. AND why are there traffic lights on this so-called trafficway and not ramps.

That aside I believe there is a better solution than the SLT or the south of the Wakarusa plans. Why not take the thing north from K10 to hook up with I-70 with exits to downtown and 6th street and north Lawrence. Plus better construction with concrete instead of asphalt to withstand the heavy commercial traffic. A radical idea but look at an aerial photo of Lawrence and surrounding area and it might work for all to benefit.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

This statement sums it up;

"Never underestimate the stupidity of the American People", thusly attributed to one H.L. Mencken, 1920.

They don't know their own history, they believe the history according to Bill O'Reilly or any other loudmouth who thinks the louder they yell and bully, the more truth they are speaking. They are the ones who call any history that holds their murderous heroes accountable, "Revisionism" . The truth comes out now because people were killed and robbed to maintain the lie. The lie can no longer be silenced. Those who benefitted from the lie are the biggest beneficiaries and biggest deniers simotaneously. These people listen religiously to AM radio and believe without reading. The ones who call me "tonto" .

Indian tribes paid for Haskell. White government officials sold part of the wetlands away in violation of their own laws. White People design faulty highways and towns like Lawrence and New Orleans. My hope is that our wetlands stay in spite of ignorance.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

Another thing, I've read numerous statements concerning the use of eminent domain for the wetlands. IT CAN'T BE DONE. Not on federal land by a state entity. And especially not on a migratory bird sanctuary. Not to mention the 570 federally-recognized tribes who've had a say since 1884.

Just a comment.

Mike Ford 12 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Cowboy,

People were affected by the building of those bypasses around the south of Manhattan. The neighborhood where Ft. Riley BLVD. starts by the mall and goes west was initiated by committing "URBAN RENEWAL" on a neighborhood where Earl Woods Sr. (Tiger's Dad) grew up. Where I passed the segregated pool in that neighborhood on the way to Manhattan High School. That is the historically Black neighborhood in Manhattan. Know your history before you champion another roadway project disproportionally affecting a minority.

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