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Archive for Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Water study for sand pit to get under way

April 9, 2013

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Douglas County commissioners will be asked Wednesday to take the next steps toward issuing a conditional use permit for a controversial sand-pit mining operation along the Kansas River near Eudora.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on two agreements related to the project: one with the engineering consulting firm Conestoga-Rovers and Associates Inc., to perform a pre-dredging study and report about current conditions of the aquifer beneath the site and any dangers the sand pit might pose, and another with Penny's Aggregates, Inc., to reimburse the county for the cost of the study.

Last month, commissioners voted 2-1 to tentatively approve the permit, subject to the findings of that pre-dredging report.

Penny's currently operates a sand dredge in the river, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently declined to renew the permit for that dredge. The company is now seeking to mine for sand on a 434-acre site just south of the river bank.

The city of Eudora has opposed the move, saying the sand pit could pose dangers to the aquifer beneath the river, which the city uses for its public drinking water supply. Nearby residents have also objected, citing the potential for increased noise, traffic and degradation of the river itself.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman, who voted against the permit, has argued it will also remove a large amount of highly fertile soil from agricultural production.

Conestoga-Rovers performed an initial review in December and concluded there was no evidence to suggest the sand pit would pose a danger to water supplies. But the firm recommended doing a more thorough analysis. The firm also suggested adding conditions to the permit calling for periodic monitoring of the aquifer while the sand pit is in operation.

But Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory argued that the permit can be written in a way to address those concerns. The first step in that process is to conduct the pre-dredging analysis.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

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