Kansas River Named Among Nation's Most Endangered

(WIBW) - Sand and gravel dredging has one group putting the Kansas River on its Most Endangered list.

American Rivers released the list Tuesday.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” Fay Augustyn of American Rivers said. “We all need healthy rivers for our drinking water, health, economy, and quality of life. We hope citizens will join us to ensure a clean, healthy Kansas River for generations to come.”

The Kansas River provides drinking water for 600,000 people. It also has widespread recreational uses. American Rivers says canoeing and kayaking on the Kansas River generate around $3.7 million per year. The river and its tributaries are also home to 14 threatened or endangered fish species.

American Rivers sand dredging widens and deepens the river channel, which lowers the water level of the river and the water table. They say that makes access to the water more difficult for people and wildlife. They say dredging also causes erosion and increases contamination and pollution by churning up old industrial pollutants that have settled to the river bottom.

More information from a news release issued by American Rivers:

American Rivers and its partners have called on the Army Corps to complete a new Environmental Impact Study on dredging, deny all new permit and tonnage requests, and end dredging on the Kansas River by 2017.

“The Kansas or Kaw River is truly unique– it's the longest sandbed river in the country. American Rivers’ designation shows the Kaw is not just of local but national importance,” said Chad Lamer, President of Friends of the Kaw. “We really hope this recognition will improve our chances of building the nationally-recognized Kansas River Water Trail - a project that has enormous economic potential for many communities along the river.”

“This designation will hopefully help improve our water quality, and anything that improves water quality improves the health and welfare of Kansans,” said Laura Calwell, Kansas Riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw. “Given that dredgers have other economic and affordable
options to get high quality sand, we just don't see the need for in-river dredging. It damages the river too much for the rest of us.”

“In my nearly 40 years of building experience, the price I pay for concrete or bulk sand for masonry applications has always been the same, regardless of whether the sand comes from a pit mine or river dredging,” said Chip Farley, with F.W. Farley-Builder, Inc., Stilwell, Kansas. “Because of the recent economic downturn, the demand for sand is currently down. It would make sense for sand dredgers/suppliers to take this opportunity to develop additional pit mines for future demand, rather than pushing for expanded environmentally unfriendly river dredging.”

“The Kansas River is a wonderful example of a Great Plains river, and can become an even greater recreational asset if access is improved,” said Dr. Melinda D. Daniels, PhD, Associate Professor of Fluvial Geomorphology, Department of Geography, Kansas State University.

“However, in-channel sand mining is a lose-lose activity that damages the river ecosystem, causing accelerated bank and bed erosion and economic costs to floodplain landowners,” Daniels
adds. “Ultimately, taxpayers end up subsidizing a damaging and unnecessary mining process by having to pay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come in and repair the damage sanddredging
causes to banks, bridges, and water intakes. Mining operations can easily be moved to off-channel pits to provide continued supplies of sand at similar prices.”

Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the
years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful
development and pollution.

The Kansas River has been listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in the past – in 1995 (agricultural pollution and sand dredging), 1998 (agricultural and municipal pollution), and
2002 (pollution and removal of Clean Water Act protections).

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