Members of the regional watershed district are asking a judge to rule in their favor in a dispute with a landowner over expansion of a dam in southwestern Lawrence near Lake Alvamar.
The Wakarusa Watershed Joint District No. 35 on Jan. 13 filed a petition in Douglas County District Court that argues the district is not required to pay owners of Sport 2 Sport One LLC to remove two baseball fields that are near the dam, which is west of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.
Topeka attorney John Hamilton said development in the area in recent decades means the dam, also known as the Yankee Tank Dam, needs to be expanded to meet state requirements to guard against a major flood.
Repairs include making the dam several feet taller and expanding the foot of the dam, which would move the dam into the area the fields now occupy.
Hamilton said the expansion would not affect the neighboring indoor tennis center owned by Kansas Athletics Inc.
The watershed district argues that it was granted an easement on the property in 1967 and that although baseball fields were constructed within the easement, the district had a right to use the easement to “maintain, inspect and repair the dam.”
According to the petition, the owners of Sport 2 Sport have declined to remove the fields unless the district were to reimburse them for the value of the structures, fixtures and improvements.
An attorney for Roger Morningstar, managing partner of Sport 2 Sport, declined comment Tuesday. His side has not yet filed a response to the district’s petition in the case.
Hamilton said the district’s members are asking a judge to rule in their favor in the dispute because they have an August deadline to be able to get federal funding for the project.
A coalition that includes local, state and federal governments, the watershed district and neighboring property owners have agreed to contribute funds for the estimated $1.8 million dam project to prevent damage to Kansas Highway 10 and Clinton Parkway during a major flood.
— Reporter George Diepenbrock can be reached at 832-7144. Follow him at Twitter.com/gdiepenbrock.