by Christine Metz

courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World

On Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will continue its consideration of a sand-dredging operation in a Kansas River floodplain north of Eudora.

On Dec. 7, after five hours of discussion, the County Commission postponed their vote on a conditional-use permit that would allow the Kansas City, Kan.-based Kaw Valley Companies Inc. to establish a sand pit and plant on 197 acres at 2102 North 1500 Road.

Residents who live along the road leading up to the plant have opposed the plan. The city of Eudora also has spoken out against the permit, saying it goes against the city’s comprehensive land-use plan and it could threaten the quality of its drinking water, much of which comes from wells that are near the sand pit.

In April, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended denying the permit in a 7-1-1 vote. The Eudora Planning Commission, Eudora’s planning consultants and Douglas County planning staff have also recommended not approving the permit.

Kaw Valley Companies would like the County Commission to send the permit back to the planning commission so the board can consider new information, such as an updated study on how the project would impact Eudora’s water supply.

County commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.


Photo courtesy Kaw Valley Companies

As reported earlier this week on, Kaw Valley Companies is about to begin the process of seeking the necessary permits to operate a sand mining facility on the property formally known as The Eudora Golf Course north of North 1500 Road. Kaw Valley Companies is seeking a 20 year permit for the old golf course location, along with property they have an option to purchase, between the old Golf Course and the river.

Representatives of Kaw Valley Companies held a public forum at Eudora City Hall on Tuesday evening and invited several land owners in the adjoining areas to the property, to an informational question and answer session. At this meeting, several land owners voiced their concerns over this sand pit operation and are worried about possible damage to the river and their land, mostly farm land, in the area.

Below are views of Google Maps satellite images of the area.

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Google Maps view a little closer in

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Alan Teutemacher, manager of the current sand pit operation in Wyandotte County, Kansas explained in detail how the process of the sand pit works and stated that they do not use any chemicals in processing the sand they remove from the pit. The sand is washed and separated according to its size. “Only river water is used in that process and then either pumped back into the river or into holding ponds located on the property.” He explained that they dig down approximately 30 feet and if they get to bedrock before that point they have to stop since they is no usable sand past that point.

Teutemacher and Price T. Banks, spokesperson for Kaw Valley Companies, both outlined the permit process stating that a minimum of five governing bodies including local, county, state agencies and the Corps of Engineers, must issue permits for various aspects of the operation, before it can begin.

Lois Hamilton, one of the nearby landowners to the project and one of the more vocal opponents, is extremely concerned about flooding of her property and other possible effects of the planned operation. “The river changed course after the 1951 flood and the old river bed goes right through the middle of this property”. She added, “If you go in there, we’re going to have floods”.

Banks and Teutemacher attempted to address these concerns to the best extent possible. They both stated, there is no way to predict the exact course of nature and what would happen in a catastrophic situation. Teutemacher said “If flooding occurs, we are heading for the hills, just like you would be.”

Wakefield Dort, Jr. Professor Emeritus, of the University of Kansas and expert on the Kansas River, also was on hand to help field questions from the audience. Professor Dort said no project is without risk. He sees this project as safe from the river as can be under normal conditions. He did state “Over the course of the next 30 years we are likely to have a big flood. If so: POOF, all if it will go right through this.” Wakefield says that the bend in the river to the north would likely take the brunt of any flooding, and says that this property to the south is a little more resistant to normal flooding conditions that might occur.

Another concern voiced by nearby residents and farmers is removal of the tree line along the river. Representatives said that approximately 100 feet of the tree line between the river would remain, to act as a buffer between the river and the plant and also serve as a way to block the view of the plant.

Mark Neis, another local farmer, was concerned that 100 feet of tree line is not very much and if flooding occurs, the river could easily eat away the tree line and cause potential channel movement. Neis also voiced his opinion about what this could do to the dikes, put in place by the Corp of Engineers, and the bridge that crosses the river.

Banks stated that all of these concerns would be addressed by the various regulatory agencies during the permit process.

The amount of truck traffic resulting from operations also was discussed. Many residents fear that road conditions in the area would not be suitable for a large amount of truck traffic.  Eudora Planning Commissioner Patrick Jankowski also spoke up as to concern about the traffic coming through Eudora down Main Street and heading to the south to access K-10. Kaw Valley officials said that much of the traffic would likely be using Leavenworth County Road 1 to the north of Eudora and K-32, as it would be heading to facilities in Kansas City, but it depends on who would be buying the sand and where they would need to take it, as to the direction of the traffic.

When asked when operations might begin, presuming the approval process was completed successfully.  Representatives responded they had no exact idea. The biggest buyer of sand is construction companies and with a down economy, construction has slowed significantly. “This operation is being planned right now as a reserve plant.” Teutemacher said. “Once the economy turns around and sand sales begin to grow, we would expect to start operations.”

John Harrenstein, Eudora City Administrator, said his big concern is what effect this could have on the cities well system which is also located in close proximity to this operation. In 2007, the city passed several regulations in regards to use of property near these wells. Harrenstein said that the city will work with Douglas County to ensure that this plant would follow those regulations.

Kaw Valley Companies stated on the record they intend to hold future public forums in an attempt to work with the land owners in the area of the pit and try to work with them and create a positive relationship between the company and the land owners in the area.