After delays, city of Lawrence to soon begin $1.6M project to repair Kansas River dam; recreational aspects of design still an option

photo by: Ashley Hocking

The proposed site for a Kansas River recreation area is located on the south bank of the river, shown here on Nov. 9, 2018.

Last year’s heavy rains have delayed the city’s plans to make repairs to the Kansas River dam and increased the project’s cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In March of last year, the Lawrence City Commission approved an approximately $1.24 million contract with TSP Environmental to repair holes in the dam, stabilize the riverbank south of the dam, and design potential recreational components and access points to the river, as the Journal-World previously reported. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2019, but the large amount of rain last year not only delayed the project but also made the holes in the dam worse.

Engineering Program Manager Matt Bond said in an email to the Journal-World that, due to the above-normal rainfall accumulations and the resulting flow in the Kansas River, it wasn’t possible to do the project as originally scheduled. In addition, Bond said the river flooding contributed to additional scouring to the downstream face of the dam, meaning that the holes and caverns in the dam got worse. He said once the river level finally dropped this past spring, evidence of additional scouring was observed and the city requested a price proposal from TSP to complete additional repairs.

The requested proposal resulted in a change order for about $422,000 for additional repair work, bringing the total cost for the project to about $1.66 million, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The additional funding includes $400,000 reallocated from fund balance and $22,000 reallocated from savings from the project to reconstruct a portion of 19th Street.

After eliminating some terms and conditions from the change order agreement that Commissioner Lisa Larsen said penalized the city for elements out of the city’s control, the commission approved the change order as part of its meeting Aug. 18. Those terms would have allowed TSP to charge the city even more for additional delays, should they occur. City staff told the commission at the time that the change order might have to come back to the commission for another vote if TSP did not agree to the change. Bond told the Journal-World this week that the terms Larsen took issue with were included in error and that TSP recently approved the agreement as stipulated by the commission.

The contract with TSP also includes design services for some potential recreational aspects of the project. The city is legally responsible for maintenance for the dam and owns the land under Abe & Jake’s Landing and the adjacent Riverfront Plaza building, where the riverbank is eroding and needs to be stabilized.

photo by: Recreation Engineering and Planning/City of Lawrence

The draft concept sketch for a recreational area along the south bank of the Kansas River.

Instead of just rebuilding the existing retaining wall, the city has previously discussed a concept that would stabilize the bank by building a terraced stone plaza that creates river entry points and extends slightly into the river and helps create pools and whitewater for kayaking and other water activities. Specifically, the contract includes $62,000 in engineering costs for the potential recreational facilities and river access improvements, according to the memo.

Bond said that presently there are not any funds allocated in the city’s budget to build the recreational aspects of the project. However, Bond said that the city does have a letter of commitment for a $245,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism to add some recreational amenities. He said a proposed design for the recreational amenities will be brought to the City Commission for consideration in the future.

Repair work on the dam is now scheduled to begin Oct. 5 and conclude on Nov. 7, according to the terms and conditions of the change order.


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