sand pit

sand dredging


Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

Despite strong objections from neighboring landowners and the city of Eudora, Douglas County commissioners gave final approval Wednesday for a sand pit mining operation along the Kansas River.

The decision helps clear the way for Penny’s Concrete Inc. to move one of its current dredging operations out of the Kansas River and onto the south bank, where it would mine sand on about 166 acres of land northwest of Eudora, near North 1500 Road and East 1850 Road. The plan still needs approval from a number of state and federal authorities.

Penny’s sought the permit after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to renew the company’s permit for the in-river dredge near that site.

The 2-1 vote came after another lengthy public hearing — the third in the past year — during which opponents argued it could threaten private and municipal water supplies in the area, while company officials insisted the sand pit would pose little or no danger to public health and safety.

“This affects over 6,000 people in our county — the city of Eudora, and even people outside the city who buy water from us,” Eudora Mayor Ruth Hughes said. “What we really need is to just say no to this.”

Earlier in the week, the Eudora City Commission voted unanimously to urge county commissioners to reject the permit. Their concern was that the pit mine, and the lake it will create, could act as a pathway for contamination to affect the city’s water supply.

But the county had already given preliminary approval in March, subject to an engineering study to determine if the sand pit would threaten either the quality or quantity of water in the aquifer beneath the site.

Richard Murphy, an engineer with Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, which performed that study, said water in the aquifer generally flows northeast, away from Eudora’s wells. And while he conceded that the mining operation could alter the flow and direct some water to the city’s wells, he said there were enough protections built into the conditional use permit to protect the people of Eudora.

“I would feel very comfortable with the water supply, yes,” Murphy said, when asked how he would feel if he and his family lived in Eudora and drank municipal water.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman sided with Eudora officials.

“I stand with the city,” Thellman said. “I agree with the mayor. This is a risk that’s too big.”

But Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory said they were satisfied that the conditions of the permit would minimize the risk.

“I’m confident that the Conestoga-Rovers information is accurate and appropriate,” Flory said. “They feel as long as the conditions we’re setting are carried out, this can be a safely run operation and not impact the water supply of the city of Eudora.”


sand dredging

Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

The long battle over whether to let Penny’s Concrete and Sand LLC open a sand pit mining operation along the Kansas River near Eudora may be settled on Wednesday, at least as far as Douglas County is concerned.

County commissioners are expected to vote on final approval of a permit for that operation when they meet at 6:35 p.m. at the county courthouse.

Penny’s is seeking to move its current in-river dredge on the river to dry land on property it owns south of the river because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently declined to renew its permit for operating within the river.

Commissioners tentatively approved the permit in March by a 2-1 vote. That vote followed an hours-long public hearing. Their approval was conditioned on the outcome of an engineering study to determine if the sand pit would threaten water quality in the aquifer beneath the site, which serves as the water supply for the city of Eudora and several nearby farmers.

That report was released earlier this month and indicated the proposed sand pit would not pose a threat to those water supplies.

Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory supported issuing the permit, provided the engineering study showed it would not threaten water supplies. Commissioner Nancy Thellman opposed the permit.

The only other item up for consideration Wednesday is a consent agenda item to acquire right of way for a culvert replacement on East 1550 Road, about three miles northeast of Baldwin City.


sand dredging

Eudora News and Information

Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

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.


sand dredging

Eudora News and

Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy  The Lawrence Journal-World

Both the Eudora and Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissions voted Wednesday to recommend denial of a permit application for Penny’s Aggregate to develop a large sand pit mine along the Kansas River.

It will now be up to the Douglas County Commission to make a final decision in a vote tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27.

The Eudora planning group voted 4-0 to deny the permit. The vote on the Lawrence-Douglas County panel was 4-3 for denial.

That represented a reversal for the Lawrence-Douglas County group, which voted narrowly in October to recommended approval of the permit, subject to several conditions. But it was a consistent vote for the Eudora planning group, which has been solidly opposed to the proposal all along.

Although several concerns were raised during the lengthy public hearing, Eudora Planning Commissioner Johnny Stewart summed up the one issue that seemed most important in swaying votes: the choice between developing and marketing the county’s natural resources, or protecting its most valuable farm land.

“It seems to be a competition between resources, whether it’s land or sand,” Stewart said.

Both of those goals are listed as priorities in the county’s long range comprehensive plan, known as Vision 2020.

The proposal called for developing a sand pit on 434 acres near the Kansas River, north of Eudora. It was a rare instance when the application had to go before both planning commissions because the site is in an unincorporated portion of Douglas County, but within the three-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction of Eudora’s zoning authority.

Penny’s sells the sand for use in concrete mixes and other construction material.

“The big thing for me is the destruction of class 1 and class 2 soils,” Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioner Clay Britton said. “It’s a decision about which resource we want to have available for use.”

The proposal has been before the county commission once but had to be sent back to the planning commission because of a technical error in the public notification process. Property owners on the north side the river in Leavenworth County were not notified of the earlier public hearings, even though they live within the 1,000-yard radius where notification is required.

Several Leavenworth County residents came to Wednesday’s hearing to express objections to the noise that would be created. They asked for additional conditions to be attached limiting the level of noise and the hours of operation for the pit mine.

Others who testified, including the city of Eudora, raised concerns about the impact the pit mine would have on the stability of the river bank and the potential for groundwater contamination in the event of another major flood on the river.

County commissioners are not bound by the recommendations of either planning commission, but those recommendations often carry considerable weight. Other options discussed by the planning commissions that county commissioners may consider include delaying action until further studies are completed on the potential impact or approving the permit subject to more conditions.


sand dredging

Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this month that it will not renew permits for three dredging operations in the Kansas River near Lawrence, forcing the companies that operate those dredges to pin their hopes for the future on a controversial proposal to develop an open-pit sand mine on dry land next to the river near Eudora.

“It’s disastrous,” said David Penny, owner of Master’s Dredging Co., which operates one of the three dredges affected by the Corps’ decision. He said the Corps’ action effectively puts his company out of business because he was also denied a new permit for dredging in the Missouri River.

Penny is the brother of Bill Penny, owner of Penny’s Concrete, which operates the two other dredging sites where the Corps refused to extend permits. Penny’s is currently applying for a permit from Douglas County to open a sand-pit mine operation on dry land south of the river near Eudora.

“It does make (the county permit) more important because we have to have some place where we can get the sand,” said Melanie Lorenzo, director of aggregate operations for Penny’s. The dredging companies use the sand to make construction materials.

In 2007, the Corps of Engineers granted five-year permits for dredging operations at 10 locations along the Kansas River. One condition of those permits was that they would be terminated in any five-mile reach of the river where the average riverbed elevation drops more than two feet.

In November 2011, as the permits were about to expire, the Corps granted them one-year extensions while it conducted surveys to determine whether they were eligible for renewal. Following that review, the Corps announced that dredging would have to cease in two of the three sites between Lawrence and Eudora, and a third site, about a half-mile downstream from the Bowersock Dam, would be significantly reduced.

Not everyone was disappointed by the Corps’ decision, however.

“We are pleased that the Corps, due to unacceptable bed degradation, is moving three of 10 dredge operations off the river,” said Laura Calwell of the local conservation group Friends of the Kaw, which opposes river dredging in general. “Still, we think the Corps has plenty of scientific evidence to cease all dredging on the Kaw, right now.”

Steve Layman, who lives on the north side of the river in Leavenworth County, just across from the Eudora site where Penny’s operates a dredge and hopes to open its pit mine, said he was also pleased with the decision.

“If you sit in my house and stare out the back window, I’m the person who has the elevated view of it,” Layman said.

He said the current dredging operation has been a source of constant noise problems for himself and for neighbors as far as a mile away from the dredge.

The noise was especially bad recently, he said, when the dredge, with its two diesel engines, was operating throughout the night.

Layman was among a group of Leavenworth County residents who forced Douglas County officials to restart the entire application process for the proposed pit mine. Even though many of them live within the area where Douglas County officials were required to give public notice of the proposal, Douglas County failed to notify them because they live outside the county.

As a result, the hearing and review process will start anew next week when the Planning Commission holds another public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Planning Commission meets at City Hall in Lawrence, 6 E. Sixth St.