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Archive for Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Company withdraws permit application for sand-dredging operation near Eudora

February 1, 2012, 2:17 p.m. Updated February 1, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

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Kaw Valley Companies Inc. has withdrawn its application for a conditional-use permit for a sand-dredging operation near Eudora.

The company withdrew the application Wednesday, hours before the Douglas County Commission was expected to vote on the permit. The Kansas City, Kan.-based company had hoped to build a sand plant on 197 acres at 2102 North 1500 Road, which is in a floodplain north of the Kansas River.

The application has been going through the approval process for more than a year. In an email to County Administrator Craig Weinaug, Phillip Struble with Landplan Engineering said he realized withdrawal of the request “will cause us to begin the Conditional Use Permit process over, but we think it is in the best interest of all parties.”

The sticking point appears to be concerns that a sand plant could cause the Kansas River to migrate and threaten the Kansas River bridge that is downstream at Eudora.

The application has seen opposition throughout the approval process.

Along with nearby neighbors, the city of Eudora opposed the plan, saying it went against the city’s comprehensive land use plan. Eudora officials also worried that the operations could threaten the quality of the city’s drinking water, which is pulled from nearby wells.

The city didn’t agree with the applicant-funded study that showed the wells would in no way be affected by the operations. Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein said they didn’t believe a thorough analysis was completed.

“We will be watching the issue in the future. If it arises again, we will have the same concerns,” Harrenstein said.

The Eudora Planning Commission and Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended denying the application. A little more than a week before the application came before the county commissioners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit to allow the sand-dredging operation.

In December, county commissioners discussed the application for nearly five hours and decided to wait for more information before making a decision. After providing additional information, Kaw Valley had asked county commissioners to send the plan back for the Planning Commission to reconsider.

But county commissioners had questions of their own. Chief among them was how the sanding-dredging operation would affect the course of the river and whether a migrating river would put the bridge at risk.

In a memo to county commissioners, Public Works Director Keith Browning stated that the sand facility would exacerbate the risk of the river overflowing its banks and migrating to an old river channel. And he said that river migration could threaten downstream dikes, the bridge and roads leading to the bridge.

Browning recommended that Kaw Valley make these changes to reduce that risk:

• Establish a 100-foot-wide and 3,000-foot-long woody vegetative buffer along the western property line.

• Monitor the meander migration when the river overflows its banks for more than a week.

• If the south bank of the river begins to meander toward the buffer zone, the permit could be revoked and operations would shut down until other solutions were developed.

Struble noted in his email that to respond to the county’s concerns would “essentially cause us to develop a plan that would be extremely different from our existing application.”

Weinaug told commissioners at Wednesday night’s meeting that it would likely be months before a new application was submitted.

“They can submit an alternative request tomorrow, but we don’t anticipate that happening,” Weinaug said.

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