Kaw Valley Companies

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

Story by Aaron Couch, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

After close to five hours of discussion, the Douglas County Commission postponed a vote on a conditional use permit sought for a sand-dredging operation north of Eudora.

Kaw Valley Companies Inc. had planned the operation for the floodplain along the Kansas River north of Eudora. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in April recommended denying the conditional use permit on a 7-1-1 vote, and it was up to county commissioners whether to heed that recommendation. Commissioners will pick up the discussion in January.

“I’m more concerned with trying to be right than trying to be quick,” said County Commissioner Jim Flory.

The Eudora planning commission voted unanimously to deny the permit.

The city of Eudora has expressed concern over the project’s impact on the city’s drinking water supply and said the plan would go against Eudora’s comprehensive land-use plan.

But representatives from Kaw Valley Companies Inc. asked county commissioners to send the permit back to the Planning Commission to allow the commission to reconsider the recommendation in light of new information Kaw Valley said had recently come together.

The new information included:

• A 60-page letter dated Nov. 28 from the Army Corps of Engineers that Kaw Valley employee Alan Teutemacher said painted a better picture of the potential impact of the project on Eudora’s water supply.

• A revised version of the study on the impact of the project on Eudora’s ground wells. The revised study was completed in March, before the planning commission’s final meeting on the project. Kaw Valley Companies contended the planning commission may not have been presented with it before it made its recommendation. It was not clear Wednesday whether this had been the case.

• A letter dated Monday from the Friends of the Kaw Inc., an organization that advocates for the protection of the Kansas River. In the letter, the organization said it judged the revised plans from Kaw Valley Companies would pose no “imminent danger” to Eudora’s water wells.

Flory said he was still concerned about the possibility of damage to Eudora’s water supply, leaving the city responsible for an expensive problem.

Larry Winn, a land-use consultant working on behalf of Kaw Valley Companies, said the company had added the city of Eudora to its environmental damage insurance policy, which covered up to $1 million in damage in the “one-in-a-million” chance something went wrong.

A number of Eudora residents expressed concern about the project, particularly the impact it might have on the Kansas River in the event of a flood. Mark Neis, Eudora farmer, said the permit should be denied. He said most of the new information did not appear to differ much from what was originally presented a year ago.

The city of Eudora recommended that county commissioners vote based upon the recommendations of the planning commissions. Scott Michie, a consultant to city of Eudora planning commission, said that if commissioners denied the application, Kaw Valley Companies could submit a new application based upon the new information they were presenting.

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In a joint meeting of the Eudora City Planning Commission and the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Commission Monday night in Lawrence, both commissions recommended that the Douglas County Commission, reject a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to Kaw Valley Companies for a proposed sand pit north of Eudora near the Kaw River.

The Eudora City Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend to reject the permit and the Lawrence/Douglas County Commission voted 7-1 against it.

The joint meeting, a continuation of a February meeting where the issue was tabled pending further research, lasted three hours while both Commissions heard testimony from the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Commission staff, representatives of both the City of Eudora and Kaw Valley Companies and finally, several citizens from the area.

Both sides again presented their arguments for and against the issue. Neither side offered much new information from the February meeting. This time around, the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Commission seemed more receptive to the reasons and thoughts of the Eudora Planning Commission in recommending the rejection.

The City of Eudora restated that the close proximity to the cities well system was a major cause of concern. If the wells would be contaminated by surface water, the city would then have to radically change it’s water treatment facility and processes, at the cost of millions of dollars.

Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Commissioner Stan Rasmussen radically changed his stance from the February meeting. “I’m very conflicted about this application” Rasmussen said. “Sand is needed and it needs to be taken from outside the river not in it.” He later added that while he was neither swayed by the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Commission staff’s reasoning for recommending rejection, he also said the application “doesn’t meet all the criteria necessary to recommend approval”.

Many other commissioners agreed with Rasmussen and also stated fears of the impact this project could cause to the nearby Eudora City wells, the jetty system used to help the flow of the Kaw River and the bridge leading across the river.  The only Commissioner to vote to recommend the permit was Chairman Blase.

A large group of citizens also voiced great opposition to proposed operation.  Scott Jackson, a local resident stated during the public comment section “Why are we still talking about this?  No one wants it other than those who are being paid” (referring to the representatives of Kaw Valley Companies).

Kurt Von Achen, Chairman of the Eudora City Planning Commission simply stated after the meeting that he was “pleased at the outcome.”

Lois Hamilton, a land owner next to the proposed site and vocal opponent was happy to see the recommendation of rejection. “I don’t think it (talking about the sand pit) does any good for the nearby land owners or the City. I’m not against progress, but I’ve owned this land since 1967 and I know what a flood does.”

Phil Struble, a representative of Kaw Valley Companies, stated “Obviously we’re disappointed in the decision. What I heard in there tonight was not a resounding ‘No’ though. There will be additional work to be done to prepare for the County Commission.”

The next step in this battle is for the Douglas County Commission to either approve or deny the CUP permit. That meeting will take place likely somewhere around the end of May or beginning of June.

“I will be back for the County Commission meeting” Hamilton emphatically stated.

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The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the Eudora Planning Commission held a joint meeting well into the night Wednesday to discuss a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a sand pit to be located on the grounds of the old Eudora Country Club located near the Kaw River.

This CUP permit is the first step in a long regulatory process to allow Kaw Valley Companies of Kansas City, KS to operate the sand pit for a 20 year period.

During nearly three hours of testimony, the staff of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, the City of Eudora, and representatives of Kaw Valley Companies, presented their arguments why the permit should be issued or denied.  Both the staff of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the City of Eudora recommended against approving the permit based on the fact that the pit will be located close enough to the Eudora City Water well system there could be a potential conflict.  Also brought into the discussion were possible ecological effects to the Kaw River and the outcome of those effects on the bridge that crosses the river into Leavenworth County.

Phil Struble of Landplan Engineering represented Kaw Valley Companies. In his presentation, he disputed those claims stating that reports commissioned by Kaw Valley Companies, stated there would not be an impact from the pit on the Eudora Well System.

Ned Marks, a geologist with Terrane Resources Co. was hired by the City of Eudora to review and verify the report that Kaw Valley Companies had completed. Marks stated that while he believed that the report was a “valid attempt to estimate the potential impact”, the numbers quoted and findings were inconclusive.

At the end of all the testimony, the Eudora Planning Commission unanimously to recommended to deny the CUP. Lawrence-Douglas County Commissioners saw the issue differently than the Eudora Planning Commission.  Several of the Lawrence- Douglas County Commissioners, although not completely in favor of giving overwhelming support to approving the CUP, saw no reason to deny it.  A minority of voices on the Lawrence-Douglas County Commission were against approving it. Enough indecisiveness and questions about the impact to both the river and the well system led the Commission to make no decision and hold off for at least 60 days on a decision.  Both Kaw Valley and the City of Eudora were asked to bring more information to the Commission in the hopes of reaching a decision in the near future.

“I think we are going to sit back and review the specific recommendations that the Douglas County Planning Commission has” said John Harrenstein, Eudora City Administrator.  “I’m very happy with the City of Eudora’s Planning Commission recommendation for denial.  The Information that we have, indicates there could be detrimental effects to the water wells in Eudora. Any risks to the water wells in Eudora, risks the water supply for the 6200 citizens of the city.”

Several Eudora officials were caught off guard by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission’s decision.

Eudora Planning Commission Chairman Kurt von Achen, in reaction to the delay by his Lawrence counterparts said “It’s process. We’re going through it.” He said “We did our job and I think we did right for the City of Eudora, but we’re the little boys on the block.”

Harrenstein said “I’m surprised by the decision to defer, based on the overwhelming opposition from not only the citizens but our Planning Commission.”

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