The Kansas River has been commercially mined (dredged) for sand and gravel since the early 1900’s. Sand from the Kaw is highly sought after because of its size and shape, which makes it particularly valuable to the concrete industry. Kansans have benefited from good quality roads and buildings thanks to the Kaw. In recent years, however, dredging activities have been documented through careful studies to have caused significant damage to the Kaw's riverbed, to habitat in and along the river, and to water quality, resulting in the Corps closing stretches of the river to further dredging. Download Regulatory Report
Sand and gravel flowed through the system from a vast network of tributaries throughout the basin, forming a "river of sand" flowing along with the river water. Nowadays the dams on the reservoirs block most of the movement of sand to the Kansas River from its tributaries, and the river is forced to remove sand to fill the holes from a much more limited area in the mainstem river. Since the 1960’s “head cutting” has become more common as the river takes sand and dirt from the banks of the main river upstream from the location of the dredging operation to fill the holes. Sometimes head cutting causes trees and vegetation (riparian forest) growing on banks to collapse into the river, or sometimes it just takes land from riverside property owners like farmers and ranchers. The two areas that have been dredged for many years on the Kansas River, from the K-7 bridge to Kaw Point in Kansas City, KS and through the city of Topeka, are void of sandbars.
Boaters should be cautious when paddling or motoring by a dredge, particularly if it is actively mining sand, because the cables that attach the dredge to the bank can be a hazard. Cables can be just under the surface of the water, above the surface of the water or moving up and down near the surface of the water.
Friends of the Kaw understands that sand is needed for
a healthy construction economy but believes sand can be reasonably and
efficiently obtained from pit mines in the Kansas River valley. Friends
of the Kaw has actively promoted this philosophy for many years and while some progress is being made, we have observed that locating a pit mine is not a quick or easy process. Finding the correct location and working with the local residents and government takes time and careful planning, but it can, and should be done.
In 2007 Holliday Sand and Gravel permitted a new pit mine in Shawnee, Kansas west of K-7 Highway adjacent to the Kansas River. This new pit mine will eventually replace their pit mine east of K-7 in the same area. The pit mine east of K-7 will be reclaimed and upon completion of the extraction of sand from the site, anticipated to be 2014, a 115 acre lake will be created. The property has been donated to the City of Bonner Springs and the City of Shawnee for future recreation space. Likewise the new pit mine located west of K-7 will be reclaimed and donated to the City of Shawnee for future recreation space. The permitting of the Shawnee pit mine by Holliday Sand and Gravel involved years of detailed planning, included specific reclamation requirements and was done without rancorous public opposition. Mike Odell, Vice President of Operations for Holliday Sand and Gravel said "Pleasing the local government goes a long way towards pleasing the community."
Locating a pit mine does have implications that need to be carefully considered by the local community and government. Truck traffic to haul out-going sand and gravel needs to be carefully planned to minimize impact on community and infrastructure. A location with a short, direct access to a major highway is best. Using electric dredging equipment minimizes noise and the possibility of fuel spills. Negotiating a detailed reclamation plan with the local community or government prior to the permitting process is also recommended. Finally, pit mines must not be located near the river in locations that are prone to "river capture" during high water events. Friends of the Kaw is currently working on a set of siting guidelines to help communities and commercial dredgers avoid locating pit mines in environmentally sensitive locations that could adversely impact the Kaw.