Letters to the Editor

Wetlands visit

November 3, 2009


To the editor:

I was out at the Wakarusa wetlands a few weeks ago and noticed a group of coots swimming and feeding. By that I mean American coots — black, duck-like birds with white bills — not “old coots” — geezers who write cranky letters to the editor. Anyway, just passing the time of day, I asked them their impression of the wetlands. They don’t live here full time but often pass through and make extended stays.

They said the food is excellent and they find the water and vegetation much to their liking. They have been coming here for many generations, they said. I mentioned that KDOT and developers point out that all this once was just plain farmland. The coots were amazed. “Maybe so, but that must have been a long time ago,” they replied.

My children walked through the wetlands. They now are grown and have children of their own, and those children have walked the trails and pathways of the wetlands. Our children remember this as wetlands and so do generations of people before them. Nature has a way of changing slowly over time. People have a way of changing nature, often rapidly and violently.

I warned the coots that some people want to put a super highway right over where they were swimming. They laughed at that, simply didn’t believe me. “Even humans aren’t that destructive,” they said. I guess both coots and people try to ignore bad times coming. I don’t know what coots could do about it anyway.


heybluekc 7 years, 11 months ago

Someone chime in hear and tell me when that area was farmland. I believe in the 70's if not mistaken. I am a avid outdoor and nature person but seriously this has gone too far. You talked to the coots? Nice job. Coots are nasty by the way. Had you talked to them somemore you probably would have found out that they were planning on diving down in the sewer treatment plant afterwards for a nightcap.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Economy In Crisis

Collapsing Infrastructure Published 06/19/09 Craig Harrington

America’s infrastructure is falling apart. Roads and bridges are in disrepair, the electrical grid is far behind, and our ability to manufacture goods or produce electricity is far behind the standards of other developed economies. Much of this is because the United States focused so much of its efforts over the past several decades on building up the consumer economy to the detriment of every other sector.

There is no doubting that the United States has become an almost purely consumer driven economy. Our citizens purchase more goods and services than any other people in the world. Our economy derives more of its growth from consumption than any other nation, and our growing annual trade deficits are a testament to that fact.

Now however even our consumer infrastructure is falling apart. According to a posting on Manufacturethis.org, the United States has roughly six times more retail space than any other nation. Shopping malls and big-box stores were built to soak up the consumption dollars of Americans eager to buy as much as possible. Now, with the economy in turmoil and disposable income dwindling, those stores lay empty in barren shopping centers around the country.

This is the primary reason that the government and corporate media have trumpeted the so-called “recovery” for so long. Their hope is to convince Americans to get back out into the shopping malls and start purchasing goods again. But after decades of spending hard earned money on foreign-made goods there is simply nothing left in American coffers to spend on frivolous novelties. The once bustling shops are now dormant.

A recent article in The New York Times has highlighted the fact that America simply has too much retail space. When not filled with shoppers these spaces are completely useless to society. The article discusses the possibility of retrofitting these spaces into something useful like schools, libraries, community centers, etc.

The idea of changing the retail landscape into something more purposeful is championed in the book Retrofitting Suburbia by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson. It has many suggestions like those previously mentioned, but it notes the difficulties in such changes. These locations are often stuck in long-term lease agreements, making them difficult to convert even when abandoned.

If the U.S. were to lead a drive to remake empty retail spaces, and revive collapsing urban infrastructure, it could create jobs and growth opportunities for years to come. At some point the U.S will have to be “redesigned” in one way or another, and there is no better time to start than now.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

NEW empty homes DO NOT pay personal property taxes nor generate any other type of revenue!

Donovan Scruggs, Ocean Springs director of community development and planning, said the city's current budget crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.(sound familiar)

“If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch,” Scruggs said. “But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by new residential does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.”

Scruggs said there have been two studies done on impact fees.

While developers pay for onsite water, sewer and road infrastructure, Scruggs said it is costly to pay for offsite upgrades needed, such as enlarging lift stations and raising water towers.( THINK Lawrence $88 million sewage treatment plant on the table to service new residential construction)

“Now if we have to upgrade a lift station, it is paid for by the general fund revenue paid by each taxpayer in the city,” Scruggs said. “Someone on the west side of town would have to pay for subsidizing the growth in demand caused by the development in the east part of town.”(sound familiar)

The eastern part of town is where the greatest residential growth is being seen. Scruggs said there has been so much growth in recent years that the city has to elevate its water towers to keep pressure at adequate levels. “That was a direct result caused by the growth,” he said.

Scruggs said that impact fees are legal if they are done properly.

Ocean Springs had 120 homes constructed in 2000, 90 in 2001 and is on track to have 120 homes constructed in 2002. If impact fees had been collected properly on the 310 homes built in three years, the city would have extra revenues of about $2.1 million.

In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be responsible for a larger amount of the infrastructure. Most builders understand impact fees are for a purpose that improves their development.”

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

To say there is no other way is simply not acceptable. There is always another way. Such as " many concepts built into one fiscally responsible plan = prudent thinking".

SAY NO to the high tax dollar obsolete Trafficway that will NOT improve 23rd street. The only way to improve 23rd is to SAY NO to KU students…… good luck on removing the ONLY dependable Lawrence revenue source. KU students make Lawrence what it is.

SAY YES to a no tax dollar bypass that can accomplish many things such as saving tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to a phone conversation HNTB consultants did study a South Of River route that would avoid the wetlands completely. It would connect to an existing K-10 interchange 1057/E1900 rd. Absolutely this option completely avoided the wetlands.

This could be a toll road thereby users, to include 18 wheelers, become a defacto benefit district.

This design was never presented to the public. Why did the proponents not want this design? Not enough pork barrel perhaps?

I-70 connectors east of Eudora were among the potential choices as well. This could be a toll road thereby users to include 18 wheelers help finance the project. This concept accomplishes many things.

The new I-70 connectors off K-10 going north, I-70 and the west leg of K-10 should all be toll roads. This combination provides a loop around Lawrence thus eliminating any need for further construction of new pork barrel highway projects.

Thus saving about $200,000,000 - $300,000,000(million) for us local taxpayers.

It also services: • Johnson and Douglas county traffic going to northwest Lawrence or Topeka. Or Lawrence and Topeka traffic going to JOCO. • the Eudora Business Park east of 1057. • East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park. • the Lawrence airport. And it: • diverts traffic around the city. • keeps the SLT out of the wetlands. • reduces congestion for morning and afternoon commuters. • Douglas County taxpayers save millions upon millions of dollars. • Eliminates use of tax dollars. • Eliminates the need for an eastern bypass * Would not dump fast moving traffic off uncomfortably close to the congested city limits on to the K-10 speedway • allows KTA fees to pay for the highway and maintenance.

Now this plan is on to something….. many concepts built into one fiscally responsible plan = prudent thinking.

I-70 is there to be used so let's do it. Saving REAL BIG tax dollars is a new concept. Pork barrel projects = wasted and inefficient use of tax dollars.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 11 months ago

Merrill- can you do anything but cut and paste???? I keep passing over your posts. I thinlk you are wasting space with all of the cut and paste crap you post and people telling you to stop.

Kyle Miller 7 years, 11 months ago

Build the remaining part of the SLT already!!! Those wetlands are nothing but a mosquito breeding ground anyway. All that moss thats coating the water, man thats beautiful (rolling eyes.) The only good thing I could see of those wetlands is some good waterfowl hunting, or maybe some deer hunting on the south end, cause lord knows there is ALOT of both!!

IdahoWinds 7 years, 11 months ago

To heybluekc, According to the history of the Baker Wetlands in the EIS the "Old Haskell Farm" was leased to area farmers beginning in the late 1930's after the Bureau of Indian Affairs ceased teaching agriculture at the boarding school back in 1934. Baker University received the land from the Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1968 and continued to least it to local farmers until 1982. The effort to actually restore the prior farm ground did not actually begin until 1991 when Baker University got its first funding grant to begin the restoration process. Restoration activities were apparently still going on in 1994 when the history in the EIS was written.

IdahoWinds 7 years, 11 months ago

jayhawk98, I agree that the SLT should be finished. It makes good common sense. But let's try to use facts rather than hyperbole in defending your rationale. Kansas wetlands can be the source of mosquitoes under certain circumstances but there are more mosquitoes in my neighborhood in NE Lawrence than there are currently at the Baker Wetlands. Besides, by your supporting building the SLT you are actually supporting the expansion of the wetlands, not their demise, as opponents would like you to believe. The Baker Wetlands is a functional, balanced ecosystem with MANY things that eat mosquitoes and their aquatic larvae. All that "moss" you are scoffing at is actually duck weed (some of it is algae). It is one of the best nitrogen sponges in nature. There are a number of water treatment plants around the country that are using it to remove high levels of nitrogen from their effluents. There have also been studies on collecting duck weed from sewage treatment facilities and turning it into biofuel. So yes, let's complete the SLT on 32nd str but the wetlands don't have to be the "enemy" in order for it to happen.

GmaD321 7 years, 11 months ago

...and this is why it will never be completed.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 11 months ago

I believe the local college students will be harder to deceive than in the past regarding the SLT debate.

It is a small vocal minority that has hurt our local economy with this SLT delay. They have used misinformation, lawsuits, emotional appeals and every trick there is to stop this road.

The reality of facing graduation with no job prospects should bring reality into focus for even the most idealistic and non informed student. I believe this SLT issue has been used to help clever people gain power and influence in the community for their own self serving benefit, not for the coots or the frogs or beavers. These animals can live in a lot of places other than the middle of our road. But we can't find jobs when no one wants to bring their business to a business unfriendly community.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

"They have used misinformation, lawsuits, emotional appeals and every trick there is to stop this road."

Sounds more like the history of the SLT pave-it-all-over lobby.

racerx 7 years, 11 months ago

When the SLT was first proposed to the public around 1986, that "small vocal minority" said it should be built south of the Wakarusa River. But, they were told that it wouldn't relieve traffic on 23rd street (one of the stated goals of the SLT) and would be too expensive (something like $17M instead of $13M). Well, the state's own traffic studies have shown the SLT won't divert traffic from 23rd because most of it is destination traffic to locations on or near 23rd (duh!) and we've spent over $20M for half a road. To finish the SLT will cost at least that much in today's dollars (god knows how much that is in 1986 dollars). The "bulldoze the wetlands" proponents underestimated the commitment of the "save the wetlands people." Too bad. We could have had the road built 20 years ago for half the completed cost.

madameX 7 years, 11 months ago

I have an honest question for all the gung-ho-build-the-SLT folks. Here's a link to the proposed routes: http://www.southlawrencetrafficway.org/downloads/corridors.pdf

According to the SLT website (http://www.southlawrencetrafficway.org/1a_concept.htm) 32nd street (the green line) is the propsed route. Now it seems to me that either 31st street (the red line) or 35th street (the light blue line) are routes that would serve just as well and not involve paving over the wetlands. In addition, they seem to mostly involve improving or expanding roads that are already there, which I suspect would be more cost effective that building a whole new road.

So, my question is, if the main concern is easing traffic on 23rd, and either of the alternative routes would acomplish that about as well as the current proposed route, how would you feel about some sort of compromise here? What about using a different route?

Kris_H 7 years, 11 months ago

If the SLT creates even one job for a current or graduating KU student I will be totally astonished.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 7 years, 11 months ago

If you are holding conversations with birds, you need more than wetlands, you need a psychiatrist. Thank you, Lynn

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

If you can't appreciate the tone of this letter, then you must not read very well.

You're welcome.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

By Kim McClure

July 24, 2009

To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence


madameX 7 years, 11 months ago


I wasn't aware that Haskell had vetoed the 31st street route. I agree that they have the right to do so. (on a semi-related note, I've long thought that replacing those two 4-way stops on 31st with lights would go a long way towards making traffic flow on that street more efficient with no need for expansion. The street is already 4 lanes after all)

I also figured that the 35th street route would involve some paving of wetlands, but that's what I meant by compromise. I probably should have been a little more clear. For people opposed to the extensive paving that would go with the proposed route, wouldn't it be better to choose a route that would involve less? And for people who want to road there so badly, wouldn't it be better to agree to a different route that might not meet with quite so much opposition if it means the thing actually gets built. And sure, if all else fails, what's so wrong with the 42nd street route.? Like I said, if the main concern is easing traffic congesion, a compromise on the route should be better than nothing.

One of the reasons I don't know all that much about the specifics of the different routes, however, is that all this stuff was debated a voted on in 1986 (that's what I've heard, anyway) when I was 9 years old and didn't even live here. I would think that before we do anything it would be reasonable to acknowledge that the population and demographics of the town have shifted since then and maybe it would be wise to take a second look at what would be the best route.

racerx 7 years, 11 months ago

"So, my question is, if the main concern is easing traffic on 23rd, and either of the alternative routes would acomplish that about as well as the current proposed route, how would you feel about some sort of compromise here? "

Again, KDOT has conceded (following their own 2002 study) that the SLT (regardless of where it's built) WILL NOT ease congestion on 23rd street because the majority of traffic on 23rd street is going to a destination on or near 23rd street.

IdahoWinds 7 years, 11 months ago

edjayhawk - blue73harley is correct. None of the proposed 32nd street alignment touches any Haskell property. The route will be on the Baker Wetlands. In fact, Haskell NEVER owned this land. It was owned and managed by Bureau of Indian Affairs up until 1968 when is was legally transferred to Baker University.

IdahoWinds 7 years, 11 months ago

madameX - I believe that Liberty One answered the issue over why not 31st Street. Liberty One, of course doesn't want any road so beyond his response about 31st he doesn't have much to add to the current discussion. At one point administrators, faculty, and students at Baker looked at three proposed routes across the Baker Wetlands: 32nd St., 35th St., and 38th St. - all rather arbitrary numbers. It was concluded by that study that for a number of reasons, primarily the movement of animals, the 32nd Street alignment would have the least negative effect. That is not to say there would be NO impact. Development always comes at a cost to habitats and wildlife. A friend of mine was in one of those study groups at Baker and they indicated to me that the main reason Baker University was willing to agree to the 32nd St alignment was that Baker would only lose 50 some acres but that the mitigation that is in the agreement with KDOT would provide over 300 acres of adjacent farm ground to be restored to wetlands as well as additional acreage along the river and areas that would be converted to native prairie. Baker Univ would also receive money to build, staff, and maintain a visitor center into the future for the benefit of citizens of Douglas County and other parts of the midwest. Sounds like a good compromise right there. Why do we need to re-invent the wheel and look at the options again. If the road is ever to be built, we need to make sure the current plan is completed as presented to the public in 2002.

BigPrune 7 years, 11 months ago

The LTE writer talked to coots? Sure it wasn't in a trippy dream? Perhaps some experts need to be called in. Wasn't ground penetrating radar brought in because one of the SLT opponents had a dream they saw dead people in the the swamp?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

IdahoWinds-- You make a compelling case of why the wetlands restoration should be expanded-- but tying that to the construction of a highway that will simultaneously destroy them is completely devoid of logic.

But I'll give you credit for trying. How much are getting paid for this bit of propaganda?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 11 months ago

Yes, the Wakarusa wetlands were converted to farmlands, from the 1930s to the 1990s, but that's just a blip of time. Ask any geologist how long the wetland have been around BEFORE they were drained and converted to raise crops, and you'll get an answer something like the following:

The wide Wakarusa floodplain is wide not because of the little river that currently courses through it; at the end of the Kansan Ice Age, some 600,000 to a million years ago, the glacial fields ended at the Wakarusa River valley, and when it melted, huge volumes of glacial meltwater coursed through the valley, widening it and filling it will the soils you see today. Once the glaciers retreated, the Wakarusa river vally held some 17,000 acres of wetlands that purified the waters and created a habitat for millions of waterfowl, amphibians, insects and other species, perhaps the most biologically diverse wetlands in the region. Osage, Kaw and a myriad of other local tribes knew it well for this diversity. As settlers moved in, they plowed up the sloughgrass, drained the soils, and shrunk the wetlands further and further down to the BIA-owned 500-plus acres that became known as the Haskell Wetlands, which was finally also almost all lain with drainage tiles and converted to farmland, except for a small tract of untouched prairie that is still within the borders of the property.

So, let's see: 60 years as farmland, 559,970 years as wetlands

I think it's time to stop bringing up the farmland argument.

BigPrune 7 years, 11 months ago

Kansas was an ocean for a far greater length of time. Let's turn everything back into a salt water ocean and stock it with sharks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

"Kansas was an ocean for a far greater length of time. Let's turn everything back into a salt water ocean and stock it with sharks."

No one is talking about turning it back to what it was-- merely to let it be what it is.

IdahoWinds 7 years, 11 months ago

Bozo- Tying the restoration of wetlands to construction of the SLT makes perfect logic. One does not happen without the other. Wetland restoration doesn't happen on its own, something must cause it to happen. Do you honestly believe that Boyd would have started the restoration without the funding to do so? Where do you think the money came from? Where would that money come from without the SLT paying for it? Certainly the completion of the SLT on 32nd st will cause damage but you and others are the ones without logic by saying it will destroy the entire wetlands, sacred ground, biodiversity of the Baker Wetlands etc. Do you really believe that 31st street, haskell ave, and Louisiana are going to stay the same in the future if the SLT is not completed? Traffic will get worse and the county and city have repeatedly indicated that plans to expand 31st and Haskell to 4-lanes are already on the drawing boards. By allowing completion of the SLT on 32nd st. the Baker wetlands will be dramatically expanded, 10% of the so-called sacred ground is forfeited, even Haskell's tiny wetlands will be expanded when 31st street is removed. And you say that doing this is devoid of logic? Hmmm?

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