Archive for Thursday, February 28, 2013

County likely to OK sand pit permit

February 28, 2013


Douglas County commissioners reached a tentative agreement early Thursday morning to grant a conditional use permit for a large sand pit mining operation along the Kansas River near Eudora, provided no significant issues are found in a groundwater survey that must be conducted before the permit is issued.

Although commissioners did not take a formal vote — it will take at least another two weeks to draft the particulars of the motion — it was evident Wednesday night that Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory were willing to move forward with the project, while Commissioner Nancy Thellman remained opposed.

Under the bargain reached shortly after midnight, Penny Concrete and Van LLC, the two owners of the property where the pit would be located, would agree to pay for a "pre-dredging report" to be conducted by an independent consultant that would do an in-depth analysis of the underground aquifer around the site to determine whether the sand pit would pose a significant risk to the city of Eudora's municipal water supply, as well as to domestic wells of neighboring property owners.

If that report shows there are no "show-stopper issues," as one engineer phrased it, the county would agree to grant the conditional use permit, subject to numerous conditions that have already been negotiated, and possibly subject to more conditions that could be recommended in the report.

In addition, commissioners and the applicants agreed to vastly reduce the size of the project to about 200 acres, less than half the size of the original proposal for a 456-acre site. That involves moving the excavation site at least 1,000 feet away from the river, and eliminating a portion of the proposed site lying south of a wetlands area.

That agreement came around 12:30 a.m. after about six hours of public comment and debate among the commissioners. It was at least the fourth public hearing on the proposal in the last five months, including two each before the Douglas County Commission and joint meetings of the Lawrence-Douglas County and City of Eudora planning commissions.

In January, the two planning commissions voted to recommend denial of the permit. The main issues raised at that meeting concerned the potential threat to both the quality and quantity of groundwater supplies, excessive noise, and the destruction of more than 400 acres of prime agricultural land.

Thellman said it was the issue of land use that convinced her to oppose the permit.

"Thirty years from now when we have this pit lake, that's when the Census Bureau tells us we'll have 2 billion more people on Earth," Thellman said. "It's a local issue, but it's a global issue. We owe it to the next generation and the generation after that not to take the short-term gain and lose 400 acres of prime agricultural soil."

The county's comprehensive plan establishes a number of priorities for planning growth and development of the county. It includes the goal of protecting highly productive farm land as well as the goal of marketing the county's mineral resources.

"It's a classic case of competing land-use issues," Commissioner Flory said. But he said it would be an overreach for the county to limit the rights of the property owners for anything other than to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community.

"When you restrict individual rights and liberties, government should use the least restrictive alternatives, and should do so only to protect physical safety, health and welfare," he said. "It should not to advance a political view or philosophy."

The commission is tentatively set to take a final vote March 13 on a motion that will spell out the structure and details of the approval.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

"It should not to advance a political view or philosophy."

Protecting highly fertile agricultural soils that can never be replaced is just good sense, and is neither political or philosophical. Destroying them is just plain stupid.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Huh? She said it's both a local and a global issue.

Regardless of where those 2 billion people live (they won't be living on the coasts after a 3-foot rise in sea levels) they're going to need to eat, and a sand pit isn't going to feed anybody.

snitty 2 years, 9 months ago

"When you restrict individual rights and liberties, government should use the least restrictive alternatives, and should do so only to protect physical safety, health and welfare," Flory said. "It should not [be] to advance a political view or philosophy."

Well Mr. Flory, you have just advanced the political philosophy of the anti-environment gas-and-oil libertarian frackers. At a time of supreme challenge to our water supply and precious riverine soil, you should recognize the importance of protecting these vital resources for Kansans' health and welfare.

snitty 2 years, 9 months ago

Those "thousands of square miles of ag land" are in currently in the process of drying up. Soon it will all be sand. Those 400 acres of the best soil on the planet are irreplaceable.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

If you think that there is a glut of arable land available in the world, or that erosion of the soil on those lands isn't happening at an alarming rate, you're extremely misinformed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

So, starvation is a good thing? When will you (and all of your family) begin your fast to death to do your part in ending the plague of humans on the planet?

LivedinLawrence4Life 2 years, 9 months ago

For those who don't want to disturb "bottomlands" for sand, please tell the authorities where to find sand on land you deem appropriate for finding sand. Highlands?

It cost $ to truck in sand from outside the area so every construction project in town will have higher costs without local sand. Do we want to pay local people to work on this sand project or pay people from out of town to haul their sand here. When you get a bid to fix your sidewalk or driveway, ask the contractor how expensive it is to haul in their materials from out of town.

Like a previous post mentioned, many area landowners get paid to not grow crops on their land due to the abundance of crops and higher yields.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

The truth is that food production worldwide is falling behind demand, and it's going to get worse, not better.

Are you proposing that we eat sand?

LivedinLawrence4Life 2 years, 9 months ago

Due to US Farmers producing too many crops, the US Government paid land owners over $1 Billion to not farm their land!

Joe Hyde 2 years, 9 months ago

LiL4L, yours is an excellent question, one I've given much thought to for many years.

Yes, it would cost money to truck in sand from remote sources; or, to bring it here by rail (another option). But bear in mind that the cost of local truck delivery of locally-mined sand factors into what customers pay per-ton for sand and gravel already. Therefore, adding a few more gallons of diesel fuel and per-hour truck driver salary would not increase the cost of per-ton construction aggregate to prohibitive levels if remote sources were exploited instead of exploiting the sand deposits in the Kaw River floodplain.

For an in-state, non-river sand supply the first place I would look is the Sand Hills of western Kansas. Second spot would be the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Land mining and pit mining of the huge sand deposits in those areas could be accomplished using conventional aggregate collection methods, and the aggretate product would be as good, or nearly as good, as that presently being removed from the Kaw River valley locally.

Better yet, opening ground mining operations for sand in western Kansas would help boost that region's weakening economy, as well as help the trucking and rail industries. Moreover, state taxes levied on fuel sales and associated sales connected to product delivery would help maintain existing infrastructure such as our highways and bridges.

Many western Kansas crop growers are staring at the imminent, involuntary termination of their farming operations due to falling aquifer levels; many would profit financially by converting their acreage to surface mining for sand. Essentially everyone in Kansas would gain if we began accessing remote sources of sand and gravel instead of progressively destroying our rivers by means of commercial in-stream mining.

This said, I'm personally in favor of the Eudora floodplain sand pit compromise going operational, provided the municipal water quality question is investigated by sound science and there are no other insurmountable public safety issues. In particular, I very much like the agreement for a 1,000 ft. site setback from the existing river channel.

Clark Coan 2 years, 9 months ago

David Penny testified against his own brother and said he will trash the place.

Carmiletta Penny 2 years, 9 months ago

David Penny did not say his brother will trash the place but said that his brother had trashed his (David Penny's) place in the past.

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