To the editor:
While a drought-depleted Kansas River flows into Lawrence, Bowersock Dam’s owners raise upstream pool elevation, building head pressure needed to operate both of their hydroelectric plants (one being new). Their river dam, recently upgraded, stands taller, enabling this pressure boost.
At Burcham Park, three city water intakes that always stood above the river during low flow conditions vanish underwater. Upstream at Riverfront Park North, gone now is the steady current that, during identical low flow periods, kept the public boat ramp swept clean of sediment and debris. Farther upriver and across from Westar’s Lawrence Energy Center, two current deflector jetties are partly overtopped by still water; a third jetty is submerged. Flowing eastward from Lecompton, the river’s steady current now begins stalling out 3 miles above Westar’s water intake structure.
Thus a for-profit impoundment suddenly extends 6 miles upstream of Lawrence’s downtown bridges, with 2 feet of dam height still unused. The return of median stream-flow levels will reveal how many extra miles of river channel the taller dam’s pool will inundate.
The longer, slower pool lets gravity capture migrating sand, triggering accelerated streambed accretion that helps regulatory agencies justify approving a commercial in-stream dredging operation. Meantime, two city parks get flooded more often; tall windblown waves erode saturated riverbanks; summertime cyanobacteria blooms sicken wildlife, domestic dogs and river recreationists while threatening Lawrence’s city water supply.
Predictable impacts appearing soon, thanks to political cowardice and regulatory dismissal that let corporate “greed energy” masquerade as “green energy.”