Federal grant to help map mines

A $250,000 federal grant has been awarded to a southeastern Kansas town to help it pay to map its abandoned underground mines.

The city of Galena in Cherokee County will receive the grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., said Wednesday.

“It is a major first step toward protecting Galena’s citizens and revitalizing the area’s economy,” said Boyda, who has been working with Galena and the nearby town of Treece on environmental problems lingering from the area’s once-thriving lead and zinc mining industry.

For years, Galena has contended with cave-ins and sinkholes caused by collapsing abandoned mines under the city. Much of the downtown area, as well as the area near the high school and junior high, are thought to be undermined. A year ago, a downtown building partially collapsed because of a cave-in.

The city wants an engineering study to identify where the mines are and how deep they are, Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby said.

“The information will also be used to determine the cost of the suggested remediation actions,” Oglesby said in a joint statement with Boyda.

Boyda’s announcement came a day after another sinkhole developed just north of the high school, according to state Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus. The sinkhole was about 8 feet in diameter in a vacant lot between two houses, Gatewood said.

Gatewood, who has been seeking state and federal legislation to help Galena and Treece, said the latest cave-in underscores the importance of identifying the abandoned mines.

Galena hopes to launch a program to fill the underground voids with a mixture of fly ash and water that hardens into a substance similar to concrete, city officials have said.

Treece faces similar undermining problems, and leaders there are seeking a federal buyout so residents can leave the area if they want. A federal buyout was engineered for undermined Picher, Okla., which is separated from Treece only by the state border.

The undermining and environmental problems the two towns face were outlined in a series of stories about mining in southeast Kansas that appeared earlier this year in the Journal-World. After the series appeared, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., joined with Boyda in seeking a buyout for Treece.

A representative of Boyda’s staff said a buyout bill could be introduced soon.