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Archive for Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New wetlands taking shape

Trafficway still in legal limbo; mitigation plan forges ahead

Work continues to add wetlands for a planned road project at the southern edge of Lawrence.

March 25, 2009

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Development of additional wetlands at the southern edge of Lawrence is visible in this aerial photo, which looks west down North 1250 Road toward Iowa Street, which runs from left to right near the top of the photo. The bridge that marks the eastern end of the South Lawrence Trafficway is in the upper left corner; the large building with the dark roof in the upper right is Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa. Cutting across the center of the photo from left to right is the extension of Louisiana Street. Above that is an area of new wetlands, to be planted this spring and summer. At the bottom: the existing Baker Wetlands, including an original, never-before-plowed area at the bottom left.

Development of additional wetlands at the southern edge of Lawrence is visible in this aerial photo, which looks west down North 1250 Road toward Iowa Street, which runs from left to right near the top of the photo. The bridge that marks the eastern end of the South Lawrence Trafficway is in the upper left corner; the large building with the dark roof in the upper right is Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa. Cutting across the center of the photo from left to right is the extension of Louisiana Street. Above that is an area of new wetlands, to be planted this spring and summer. At the bottom: the existing Baker Wetlands, including an original, never-before-plowed area at the bottom left.

The Ziploc bags are all lined up, each filled with seeds designated for swales being carved into former corn and soybean fields north of the Wakarusa River.

By this summer, the 57 water-filled depressions will receive their plantings — floatings, really — for germination into a new 142-acre expanse of wetlands. A boardwalk also will be installed, a trail system created, a parking lot established and a picnic pavilion erected.

Of course, the actual impetus for all this wetlands work — construction of the remaining stretch of the South Lawrence Trafficway — remains mired in legal limbo. One side maintains the road should be built through the existing Baker Wetlands, while another argues that the existing wetlands should be protected because of their cultural, educational, recreational and environmental significance.

Meanwhile, Roger Boyd keeps plugging along. He’s overseeing $975,000 worth of work to establish additional wetlands, on fields west of the extension of Louisiana Street at the southern edge of town.

And that’s just fine with him.

“There are a lot of skeptics who believe the mitigation will not work, so we’re demonstrating that it will,” said Boyd, Baker’s director of natural areas. “And it does take some time, so that’s to our advantage.”

The additional wetlands are at the center of a mitigation plan approved as part of a project that would extend the trafficway from its current ending at Iowa Street to a point on Kansas Highway 10, just east of Noria Road at the southeastern edge of Lawrence. The estimated $140 million extension would run through the northern end of the Baker Wetlands.

‘Natural’ approach

The state has not secured money to purchase necessary land or to finance the highway’s construction. Preliminary surveying work is ongoing, but no set of construction plans has been completed and a pending lawsuit challenges the entire project’s future.

As such uncertainties continue, Boyd is keeping busy.

He and his hired contractors have 42 swales in place, with another 15 to go, before they start spreading out seeds collected last year from the Baker Wetlands to the east. Some seeds, such as those for Pink Smartweed, will be expected to germinate, grow into plants and bloom this summer. It could be a few years before others, such as Arrowleaf plants, manage to take hold.

The curving depressions — seen from above, they resemble fairways on a golf course — vary in depth, from 6 to 18 inches, Boyd said. The goal of the swales is to turn the farm fields back into what they had been for centuries: functioning, healthy wetlands.

“They’re there to replicate what a floodplain would look like, with all the river meanders, and get rid of the linear pattern the field had for 100 years,” Boyd said of the swales. “It’s mostly visual, so it looks more natural than manmade. That’s the aesthetic part.”

Functional, or fantasy?

The additional wetlands actually will function better than the “original” ones to the east, Boyd said. The existing Baker Wetlands don’t allow any floodwater to enter because of a levee system installed around the wetlands in 1920.

The additional wetlands, however, will collect drainage runoff: The 30 acres of additional wetlands northwest of North 1250 and East 1400 roads will drain about 80 acres coming off a hillside to the west, Boyd said.

The 112 acres of additional wetlands being created southwest of the intersection will end up draining about 650 acres, including fields on the western side of U.S. Highway 59.

“This area will have more function than the original wetlands,” Boyd said. “These will actually retain floodwater.”

Bob Eye, an attorney for a coalition of environmental and other groups suing to stop the trafficway from being extended through the Baker Wetlands, said that the idea of “replacing wetlands” was far too uncertain for his clients to really endorse or embrace.

Besides, he said, the Baker Wetlands also carry cultural value for their longtime connection with Haskell Indian Nations University and more.

“They have attributes that go beyond the environmental ones that are in play, and go to the cultural, educational and recreational attributes that cannot be replaced,” Eye said. “It’s not just something that you pull off the shelf and say, ‘We have replacement wetlands.’ It’s a lot more complicated than that. These wetlands are unique. They have unique attributes that need to be accounted for.”

Comments

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 8 months ago

So, the way the laws are written around wetland preservation, if a group is anti-sprawl, anti-progress, etc. all they have to do is flood some land and plant some cattails and viola(!): they've effectively blocked any proposed road project for all eternity. If you don't like a public works project, create a swamp as fast as you can.

That seems sleezy. It's also tempting a change in the law that the environmentalists may someday regret.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm going to make an assumption: none of these people live within a mosquito's flying range of this swamp they are making. There is a serious health issue brewing there around the spread of disease via mosquitos. I used to play softball at Broken Arrow Park. We would get eaten alive in the summer.

gccs14r 5 years, 8 months ago

I've read that mosquitoes have about a 300 foot range. Your mosquitoes were probably not coming from the wetlands.

LogicMan 5 years, 8 months ago

Does anyone know (serious question), could the owner of an artificial wetland/swamp be held liable for sickness or injuries caused by its mosquitoes, snakes, etc.?

cowboy 5 years, 8 months ago

Just spent a few weeks traveling and always am glad to be back in Lawrence. one thing that hits you in the face is the lack of decent infrastructure , i.e. roads , and the stupidity of much of the Lawrence eco / devo / say no / everything old is good / population. The new wetlands is exposing bob Eye and his band of obstructionists for what they are , wannabe do gooders. Lawrence could be fabulous with some new roads , redevelopment of the rotting inner core , and some leadership in city hall that would spur small business creation and retention.

Doesn't mean we have to build new subdivisions , or bring in a bunch of big box . Improve what we have. Its high time to get off the pot and start progressing. We could be a jewel but right now were just a turd with potential.

redmoonrising 5 years, 8 months ago

I don't know, Logic. The last time I drove by our "natural wetlands" they were a field. That was several years ago. It's just like anything, if you build it, they will come. And soon they forget. These were by old accounts a natural wetlands at one time that were drained and used for farming and then converted back to wetlands. Seems like maybe a lot of that area could be classified the same. Makes me wonder about the motivation of a certain individual who has pushed this cause for years. Hopefully he is doing it gratis.

However, maybe there are some Haskell ties because when we used to drive home from visiting friends southeast of town late at night, the road immediately to the east of the then field, now wetlands, was lined with Haskell students probably holding ceremonies there on any given night. To the best of my knowledge, none of them became sick or were snake bitten. But then, it wasn't a wetlands at the time, so again, I can't say.

cowboy 5 years, 8 months ago

That the best you have Log , pathetic as usual.

purplesage 5 years, 8 months ago

In times like these, we have money to build a swamp? Or a marsh?

With people starving in the world and food prices going through the roof, we flood farm land.

Only in Lawrence, I guess. (Muttering)

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 8 months ago

Pure, pure politics with no "good" aim at all.

This is not something to be proud of. "Obstructionist" is the word of the day.

gr 5 years, 8 months ago

"Pink Smartweed" Isn't that an introduced noxious weed? Or does Kansas count it as such? Isn't there some law about intentionally spreading seeds of noxious weeds?

"dude these will never be as good as the orginal baker wetlands"

Well, since the "original" baker wetlands were once fields, and now they have been turned into wetlands, why couldn't other fields be turned into just as good wetlands?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

"Isn't that an introduced noxious weed? "

The official state flower, the sunflower, is also classified as a noxious weed. Go figure.

MyOpinionCounts 5 years, 8 months ago

I live a few blocks from that mosquito pit ... and I'm allergic to mosquito bites. I just can't wait!!

MyOpinionCounts 5 years, 8 months ago

"They’re there to replicate what a floodplain would look like, with all the river meanders, and get rid of the linear pattern the field had for 100 years,” Boyd said of the swales"

and...we need to go back to what it was over 100 years ago because??? Talking about living in the past...

b_asinbeer 5 years, 8 months ago

Allergic to mosquito bites? So, you inject yourself with an epi-pen 40-50 times a year?

cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 8 months ago

Everyone is allergic to mosquito bites, hence the visible allergic reaction on the skin following a bite.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Functioning wetlands actually reduce mosquito populations, often quite dramatically.

Check out this link from that wacko environmental group, the US Army--

http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/reg/mosquitoes.pdf

Mike Ford 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm gone a number of months and the posts are still uneducated. Wow!!!

Baker University is simply living up to the standards of all of the other protestant religions who came to Indian Country (Kansas was this until 1854) and spent the next twenty years pilfering the lands, cultures, and tribal funds of the emigranf tribes of Kansas. C.C. Hutchinson and Isaac Kalloch stole Ottawa lands and monies and Joseph Roming stole Munsee funds. They're just following a bad tradition in Kansas history.

CreativeMind1 5 years, 8 months ago

A SLT wetlands mitigation site was already created in the late 1980s SE of Haskell and 31st St. Dr. Kelly Kindscher with Kansas Biological Survey was the project manager. He reported a few years ago that the biodiversity present in native, undisturbed wetlands is still not present at the mitigation site. In other words, Man can't duplicate what Mother Nature does. Roger Boyd is dreaming if he thinks he can play God.

kmat 5 years, 8 months ago

For all of you that are scared of the mosquitos. If you had ever visited the existing wetlands (which I was so happy to see this article state that they were originally wetlands that were drained to be farmland, then finally returned to wetlands) you would know that there is an abundance of animal life there. Specifically, mosquito fish (like a guppy) that feed on the larvae. They actually cut down the mosquito population.

You have more chances of having mosquito problems from your neighbors allowing a small amount of water to collect on their property than by living near the wetlands.

Purplesage - then what are your comments about the govt paying farmers to not farm their land? Do you realize that we have an abundance of food in this country already? Do you realize that when we send food aid to other countries, often times their govts hold that food and don't give it to the needy?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

That was a really stupid post, 75x55. The link most certainly was to a US Army website, regardless of who originally developed it. And the information contained in it is not the least bit controversial. That's probably why you made no attempt to provide any counter evidence supporting your ignorant misconceptions.

spankyandcranky 5 years, 8 months ago

CreativeMind1 (Anonymous) says… "A SLT wetlands mitigation site was already created in the late 1980s SE of Haskell and 31st St. Dr. Kelly Kindscher with Kansas Biological Survey was the project manager. He reported a few years ago that the biodiversity present in native, undisturbed wetlands is still not present at the mitigation site. In other words, Man can't duplicate what Mother Nature does. Roger Boyd is dreaming if he thinks he can play God."

I drive on 31st every day between Haskell and Iowa. I'm wondering, is the area south of 31st part of the original mitigation site? It seems like the area north of 31st is reverting back to wetlands on it's own. I'm curious if that area (between 31st and Haskell University) has better biodiversity than the mitigated area? We obviously can't erase what's already been done. But I like that with this new project they're trying to reclaim original wetlands. I'd like to know, though, if the drainage from the 650 acres, including fields on the western side of U.S. Highway 59, will include pesticides or other farming chemicals? Also, I appreciated the link from Bozo about wetlands reducing mosquito populations. Good to know. The research seems solid there, to me.

kmat 5 years, 8 months ago

spankyandcranky - yes, the runoff that will fill these man made wetlands will have all the wonderful pesticides and animal run off from neighboring farms. The waters will end up resembling the Kaw - foaming and nasty and you can't even eat fish from it because they are all poisoned.

What a great diversity of life that will thrive in those man made wetlands. Man made chemicals to go along with man made wetlands.

JHOK32 5 years, 8 months ago

What I want to know is who is paying for all this work? Is it Baker while they are laying people off? Hope to God it isn't our taxes! The big money investors & land speculators who control this town have been pushing the south trafficway for 20 years....it's just like the coal plants in western Kansas, they'll get their way .......sooner or later.

Jeff Dean 5 years, 8 months ago

What about all of the CO2 that is released while the commuters are stuck on 23rd street?

shockchalk 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank goodness the road will soon be built! Too bad it didn't happen sooner!

tom_bodett 5 years, 8 months ago

Right on catfish....build it already!!

tin 5 years, 8 months ago

I guess it's better for the environment that we have to sit in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic for ever to get threw town rather then zipping by town on the by pass.

Guess there's no way to please the environmental nazis.

gccs14r 5 years, 8 months ago

31st needs to be removed between Louisiana and Haskell. If the SLT is built at all, it needs to be south of the river.

Orwell 5 years, 8 months ago

Just a thought –

The controversy hasn't been primarily over WHETHER to build the rest of the SLT, it's been about WHERE. If some folks hadn't been so insistent on building it through the wetlands, and ONLY through the wetlands, we could have had a completed SLT about a quarter century ago – at less than a quarter of the cost.

As it stands now, we can count on another decade of 23rd street congestion because the legislature isn't going to come across with the bucks. Instead, they'll sit back and chuckle at Lawrence's continuing refusal to consider anything like compromise.

Danimal 5 years, 8 months ago

It's just time to build the road and be done with it. We can create all the man made wetlands we want, I don't care as long as that road gets built. Why not turn Haskell into a wetland while we're at it? Seems like they're so pro-wetland that they shouldn't mind donating their institution to the cause. Seriously though, is everyone so immature that we can't lose a couple of acres of man made wetland to gain hundreds more and a new southern bypass for our city? I guess we'll all be sitting in traffic jams on 23rd St. forever.

RadarC 5 years, 8 months ago

Has anyone considered what the wetlands and the roads will be like in the future? If no new roads are built, there will surely be increase in traffic and pollution. Traffic will have to slow down considerably, due to congestion and cause more pollution to the local environment. As I understand it, the current plan for the new roads will create a separation of the traffic from the wetlands. This may help preserve the wetlands in the long term. The reactionary approach of doing nothing could kill off the current habitation. So far, all I have seen posted is either do nothing or build the roads. No one seems to be offering better solutions to meet the needs of both the wildlife and the traffic of the future. It seems to be “My way and to hell with everyone else.” As for the “New Wetlands” article, it seems that an attempt is being made to help provide a long term solution for the future of the wildlife. New road or no road, I hope it will work. There bound to be setbacks, but there are people willing to take action, instead of moaning and groaning with the rest of us on this blog.

redmoonrising 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree Radar. Compromise seems to be undefined in the Lawrence dictionary.

gccs14r 5 years, 8 months ago

The compromise was to build it south of the river. As for traffic jams on 23rd, boo hoo. Apparently none of you have been anywhere with real traffic.

Mike Ford 5 years, 8 months ago

Consumer1, here's a lesson on federal Indian law and history. There's the Doctrine of Discovery arising from the Johnson V. McIntosh Supreme Court case of 1821. A bunch of Europeans arrive with their religion and decide that since they discovered indigenous peoples that had been here thousands of years they have the right to tell the original inhabitants of this land that they no longer own the land but they have the HIGHEST RIGHTS OF Occupancy. The federal government and their rampant squatters illegally occupy tribal lands and force the U.S. military to intervene to justify their theft ehich in turn completely turns the tribal concept of location on it's head. Senecas and Wyandottes from Ohio and Michigan in Kansas, Modocs from Oregon in Oklahoma, my two tribes of origin moved from the Carolinas and Mississippi to Oklahoma. We didn't assign these territories, the U.S. Government and their thieving settlers caused reservations ot be created and lands to be assigned as the thefts went on.

You sound as uneducated as commentator Allen Dershowitz has in the past on the issue of tribal history. His whole explanation of tribes exterminating themselves is nothing more than a conservative desire to brush over histories they either don't know about or want to know about. FYI: the history that has been ignored is about to sneak up on the uninformed.

jonas_opines 5 years, 8 months ago

purplesage (Anonymous) says…

"In times like these, we have money to build a swamp? Or a marsh?"

Or, for that matter, a road?

"With people starving in the world and food prices going through the roof, we flood farm land."

And still paying farmers not to grow food? Food prices are going up because of gas and transportation prices, not because there's not enough farm land.

"Only in Lawrence, I guess. (Muttering)"

Or in your head.

/someone just put a damned light in at 31st and Louisiana, and see if it changes the traffic problem any. It can't be that expensive to put in another stoplight, and since they're not building the road right now they might as well.

lounger 5 years, 8 months ago

Poof! Its another wetlands! YOu CANNOT create something like a natural wetlands. You will have something that looks like a wetland and pretty much acts like a wetland but the diversity wont ever make it into the original . NOTHING makes up for destroying the wetlands. Only 40 acres of the original wetlands survive. Lets play GOD! (psst- it doesnt work that way!!)

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