Archive for Friday, July 25, 2008

Trio to conduct Kaw River checkup over 12 days

Kansas Riverkeeper Laura Calwell, shown in this April 25, 2007, file photo, will explore the Kansas River to monitor, clean and restore this major source of drinking water.

Kansas Riverkeeper Laura Calwell, shown in this April 25, 2007, file photo, will explore the Kansas River to monitor, clean and restore this major source of drinking water.

July 25, 2008


Riverkeeper Laura Calwell and two associates will spend about 12 days paddling along the 171-mile Kansas River in kayaks and taking inventory.

They will identify areas of the river - which runs from Junction City to Kansas City - in need of monitoring, cleanup and restoration. The trio will look at physical structures such as pipes, bridges, dams and banks. They also will test the water quality near wastewater treatment discharges.

"The biggest part of my job is to enforce and to watch over the river. So, actually getting on the river and seeing exactly what is going on, on the river, helps a lot," said Calwell, who is riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw, a nonprofit environmental organization that helps raise money for the inventory project.

The journey begins Saturday, and the group plans to stop in Wamego, Topeka and Lawrence, where they will meet volunteers who will help them recharge batteries and provide fresh supplies.

Until the group's first inventory last summer, such information wasn't available.

Josh Marks, regulatory project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that he didn't know of another project like it and that the data was valuable.

"I think it's a good thing for the Kansas River and to know what's out there and help better plan for the future," he said.

For example, the group found an area south of Manhattan last year where small amounts of concrete were being dumped down a river bank. Calwell reported the findings to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which handled the case.

Mike Heideman, communications specialist with the KDHE, said the agency has worked with the Friends of the Kaw on educational projects and said the resources they provided were "absolutely important."

"We think the more participants that we have involved in helping to ensure water quality in Kansas, the better that is for efforts to protect the environment," he said.

Area residents need to protect the Kaw because it's one of their main sources for drinking water. It also quenches the thirst for area farms and businesses.

"The Kansas River is our lifeline and literally is where we are getting our water and what keeps us alive," said Cynthia Annett, scientific adviser for Friends of the Kaw and a participant in the inventory project.

Annett and Calwell said one of their biggest concerns was runoff pollution caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As it moves, it picks up pollutants such as oil, fertilizers, pet wastes and insecticides and deposits them in rivers and lakes. They said there wasn't much regulation on such pollution.

"When it rains, the water carries those substances or that debris down the storm sewers and right into the river," Calwell said. "So, really there's a lot of things that just a normal person can do to help make our water quality better."

For example, use organic fertilizers on lawns. Also, don't litter. For more tips on how to help preserve the river or to follow the inventory trip down the river, click on


Fort_Aubrey 9 years, 9 months ago

Who are these people and what kind of real education and training do they have? Were they selected through a competitive process?Why should I believe anything these self-appointed's say over what KDHE and EPA officials say? And why does the LJW always write about them as the Second Coming?Next thing you know, the LJW will be writing similar articles for AsBESTOS and his rants.

EAStevens 9 years, 9 months ago

We in Lawrence are lucky to have a river in our midst and luckier still to have people who give a damn about keeping it clean and usable. If enough people give a damn, Lawrence can someday have a riverfront to boast about, like Kansas City, San Antonio and Spokane.Way to go Laura!

Angel Gillaspie 9 years, 9 months ago

why don't you go to the website ( and read all about it? the Friends of the Kaw is a non-profit, non-governmental entity. the river keeper's job is to monitor local, state, and national regulations governing surface water, respond to pollution reports from the website, organize and guide float trips on the Kaw, assist with grant-writing, fund-raising and event planning, and communicate with (thereby educating) the public regarding the state of the river. under Calwell's tenure (since August of 2003) FOTK has secured almost a quarter of a million dollars in grant funding in support of their work. they have developed & maintained the Kansas River Atlas and the Kaw River Inventory and spearheaded cleanup and renovations all along the river, including the transformation of Kaw Point from a junk heap to a park and the addition of access ramps in St. George, Lecompton, Edwardsville, DeSoto, and Manhattan. the goal is to provide access points for recreational use of the river every ten miles, with ramps planned for Topeka, Ogden, Maple Hill, Junction City, Fort Riley and Wamego. they have also successfully thwarted efforts to dredge and monitored the Kaw for illegal and destructive dumping. with all of this already accomplished, who cares what their qualifications are? the money to fund the riverkeeper's position is from private donations and grants, so there's no need for you to worry about your precious tax money going to this effort. Laura is a great riverkeeper and has done an exemplary job in the position.

profwriter 9 years, 9 months ago

igby there's sandbars in the Atlantic, too. Guess the world's got it all wrong & we should listen to you. Atlantic Creek it is from now on. Thanks igby!

George_Braziller 9 years, 9 months ago

Call it "Kaw Creek" if you want, but it's still a major source for the Lawrence water supply. The sandbars are also absolutely amazing when you can experience them by canoe.

mmiller 9 years, 9 months ago

Just many times did you guys (ljworld) use the sharpen filter on this pic? Good lord. Sharpening a pic can be very tricky.

james bush 9 years, 9 months ago

Interesting piece of news. Thanks LJW.Why do some posters criticize people who are helping, like Laura? AND thanks too. I think it would be an adventure to do what you are doing.

profwriter 9 years, 9 months ago

We're lucky to have Laura Calwell, she's deeply dedicated, extremely knowledgeable, thoroughly capable & highly effective. The Kansas River is outrageously undervalued by most people. On second thought, go ahead & keep ignoring the river everyone...kayaking/canoeing wouldn't be the same if you all discovered how awesome the river is & long lines at the boat ramps would be a drag!Have a great trip, Laura! Wish I could come along & help out.

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

This creek is as dirty as the Hudson in the 70's. Rivers have channels creeks have sand bars. This is a creek not a river. Call it what you will.Kaw Creek.

Grump 9 years, 9 months ago

I like to run trot lines in the Kaw for catfish (perfectly legal), and I once discovered some sort of self appointed river nanny pulling one of mine out, apparently because he didn't approve. I don't know if he was Friends of the Kaw or not.I've also canoed the Kaw several times every summer since about 1975. Recently while I was stopped on a sandbar drinking beer with friends, more self appointed river nannies stopped and came over to check on us. Again, I don't know if they were Friends of the Kaw, but they needed to mind their own business.

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