Area newspaper and television reports about the Kansas River. Click on link on top of story to go to original article.
By Chad Lawhorn
June 11, 2012
Officials at the city’s two water treatment plants are running tests today to determine what is causing odd taste and odor issues with the city’s drinking water, but are confident the water remains safe to consume.
“It is an aesthetics issue,” said Jeanette Klamm, a spokeswoman with the city’s Utilities Department. “There aren’t any health issues related to the taste and odor.”
Klamm said the city had received at least 20 calls about the taste and odor issues by early Monday morning. She said plant operators began noticing the issue during the weekend.
City leaders already have a suspicion about what is causing the “earthy and musty” tastes and odors — algae. Now, they just have to figure out what type of algae.
Klamm said plant operators believe they’re dealing with geosmin, which is a by-product of dead algae that accumulate at Clinton Lake and sometimes in the Kansas River. The city’s water plants have experienced high levels of geosmin on an almost annual basis during the last several years. But usually, geosmin outbreaks occur in August when the heat of the summer has killed large amounts of algae at once.
Klamm said the city may receive test results as soon as this afternoon.
As for when the water may begin tasting better, that may be another day or so. Klamm said plant operators currently are reporting the taste and odor issues are on the decline at the two treatment plants.
“But that won’t necessarily help the public today because our systems are full of older water,” Klamm said. “We have to use the existing water before the public will start to notice an improvement.”
City officials don’t believe they are dealing with an algae outbreak of the same nature that caused the Kaw Water Treatment Plant to temporarily close last summer. In August, the Kansas River had high levels of blue-green algae that came from upstream reservoirs, including Milford and Tuttle Creek.
The issues associated with blue-green algae are less understood by water plant professionals than the geosmin outbreaks. Some studies have concluded exposure to water with blue-green algae can cause health problems for humans and especially pets.
Last year, the city’s treatment plant was found to have successfully filtered out the blue-green algae from the drinking water, but as a precaution officials shut the plant down during the height of the outbreak.
Although city officials don’t think blue-green algae is to blame for this week’s taste and odor issues, they are preparing for a similar outbreak in the future. At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, commissioners will consider approving $40,150 for Lawrence to participate in a study of Kansas River water.
The study will be led by the Kansas Water Office and will include the cities of Topeka and Olathe and Water District No. 1 of Johnson County.
Already the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued eight advisories related to blue-green algae levels and one warning for Kansas lakes. So far, neither Clinton Lake nor any of the lakes directly upstream from Lawrence’s Kaw Water Treatment Plant has been included in the warnings or advisories.
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By Scott Rothschild
June 7, 2012
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced it has approved Kansas’ list of 1,330 “impaired waters,” which represents a decrease from two years ago.
KDHE submitted its impaired waters list to EPA for review and approval as required by the Clean Water Act. The act requires EPA to review the state’s list of impaired waters to determine if the state reasonably considered available water quality-related data, and identifies waters to be listed.“KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) should be commended for the progress that has been made to improve Kansas lakes and streams,” said Karl Brooks, EPA regional administrator.
A water body is placed on the impaired waters list when monitoring finds that pollution levels prevent the lake, river, or stream from attaining its beneficial uses. In Kansas, beneficial uses include human recreation, agricultural water supply, and maintaining healthy aquatic life.
EPA has approved Kansas’ list of impaired waters, which removes 561 waters from the previous impaired waters list and adds 121 waters.
One of those de-listed is Perry Lake because a plan is in action to address concerns with the waters, EPA officials said.
“The state of Kansas is pretty darn good at addressing impaired waters,” said John DeLashmit, chief of the water quality management branch at the regional EPA.
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PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, 4775 S.W. 21st, has reinstituted a weekly forum series on topics revolving around social justice, the humanities and the environment at 9 a.m. Sundays. During a recent session, Mike Calwell, left front, and Laura Calwell, right front, of the Friends of the Kaw organization, make a presentation on the health of the Kansas River.
If you stick around a certain place long enough, you are liable to see things come full circle.
Such is the case with several longtime members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, 4775 S.W. 21st.
When the fellowship began meeting in 1961 in a ranch-style house in west Topeka, it was geared around a series of discussions that soon came to be known as UU Forums.
Bill Lucero, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, said there was no paid clergy in the congregation’s early days. Thus, it was left to the members to organize programs each Sunday.
Over time, the congregation hired part-time, then, more recently, full-time clergy. During the past decade or so, the UU Forums disappeared.
But in the past few months, with some program changes on Sundays at the fellowship, the UU Forums have made a return.
This time, the forums are being held at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, making it possible both for members of the congregation and visitors from other houses of worship to attend.
Lucero said the forums center on such themes as the humanities, social justice, the environment and human rights — topics that may not be broached as much during the 11 a.m. service.
Speakers who specialize in a particular discipline lead the forums, which are punctuated by questions and comments from audience members.
Lucero said the forums were brought back because “people were missing the information” that they provided.
Recent forums have featured Washburn University English professor Tom Averill; Friends of the Kaw leaders Laura and Mike Calwell, on the health of the Kansas River; and Bobbie and Skylar Schaeffer, on living with a disability.
Sunday’s forum speaker will be student minister Shawna Foster on the state of racism in the nation.
After her recent presentation on the Kansas River, Laura Calwell said she enjoyed being the guest speaker for the forum, despite only about 15 people in the audience.
“There weren’t a lot of people, but they had some very good questions and brought up some very good points,” she said. “It showed me they understood the topic.”
Bob McDaneld, a fellowship member and an organizer of the forums, said the programs serve a purpose beyond informing attendees — they allow people to gather and hear each other’s thoughts.
After the end of the hourlong program, attendees gather for coffee and continue discussions.
“I see any church as essentially providing a real community for the people who choose to be a part of it,” McDaneld said. “This one offers people more room to explore things than a lot of church congregations would do.”
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Contributed photo. Enlarge photo.
Kansas Riverkeeper Laura Calwell receives the 2011 Stream Monitor award from Don Snider, Kansas Wildlife Federation President. The Watershed Institute of Overland Park sponsored the award.
The Kansas Wildlife Federation recently honored Kansas Riverkeeper Laura Calwell with a statewide conservation award.
Calwell, for the second time, received the 2011 Stream Monitor Award. She was one of 13 award winners the federation honored in February for exceptional efforts in Kansas wildlife conservation.
Since 2003, Calwell, a Mission resident, has been dedicated to monitoring the health of the 173-mile-long Kansas River — commonly referred to as the Kaw, according to an announcement from the federation.
Calwell is a founding member of and coordinates activities for Friends of the Kaw, a nonprofit grassroots environmental organization that aims to protect and preserve the river. Among other duties, Calwell helps with writing and administering grants for the group and expanding its website, kansasriver.org.
As riverkeeper, Calwell acts as teacher, scientist, investigator and media spokeswoman.
Her first priority is responding to threats to the health of the Kaw, investigating problems, reporting issues to appropriate agencies, making comments on legislation regulations or educating and involving the community.
Since the early 1990s, Calwell has fought in-river dredging on the Kansas River, a mission at the heart of her conservation efforts. Recently, she helped obtain an $8,000 grant that’s currently helping Friends of the Kaw publicize concerns about the procedure.
She worked for the past two years to obtain the Johnson County Storm Water Management Grant, which has provided more than $70,000 for implementing storm water education in Johnson County.
Calwell has raised awareness about concerns over toxic algae blooms in reservoirs and encouraging the reduction of stormwater runoff. She also encourages the creation of rain gardens to act as water filters, including a recent garden in De Soto. During Friends of the Kaw float trips, Calwell gives Sandbar Seminars to encourage recreation on the Kansas River.
In 2008, Calwell and Friends of the Kaw began the Kansas River Inventory, a comprehensive data project to document the state of the river. Information is hoped to help identify areas in need of restoration as well as quality riparian forests in need of conservation.
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By Chad Lawhorn: — Lawrence Journal-World
March 11, 2012
Construction has begun on a $600,000 project to improve the reliability of the city’s Kaw Water Treatment plant, and planning is under way for a $7 million project that will involve trying to figure out the shifting sands of the Kansas River.
The city has shut down the Kaw Water Treatment Plant, Third and Indiana streets, for the month of March while crews replace several critical valves that are more than 50 years old.
“Because of their age, the valves don’t close all the way,” said Jeanette Klamm, a programs manager with the city’s Utilities Department. “If we ever had to isolate the plant for some reason, we couldn’t do that without some people who live near the plant being out of water.”
Crews are installing 36-inch valves and new piping in the front yard area of the plant. During the project, all of the city’s water is being supplied by the Clinton Water Treatment Plant in West Lawrence.
During the project, traffic on portions of Third and Indiana streets may be affected. The city’s bulk water station, where customers can pay to fill large, portable tanks, is closed for the month. The project is expected to be completed in early April.
But there is plenty of additional water plant work that will stretch throughout 2012 and into 2013. Utilities Director Dave Wagner said the city has begun working with Black & Veatch engineers to design a solution to a malfunctioning Kansas River intake that forced city officials to essentially shut down the plant several times over the last year.
Figuring out a solution for that problem will be complicated because it involves trying to predict how the sands of the Kansas River will settle.
“It is going to be a pretty significant effort,” Wagner said.
The Kaw River plant is designed to operate with two intake pipes in the Kansas River. One of the intakes has long been inoperable, and over the last several years sand has periodically clogged the lone remaining intake.
The city’s utility rate plan has about $7 million in its budget to build a new intake and hopefully improve the existing intake to the point that it can be used as a backup.
But first, engineers have to better understand the shifting sands of the Kansas River. That can be difficult enough in ordinary times, but Wagner said the construction of the new Kansas Turnpike bridges upstream of the plant have changed the dynamics of the river.
Following the construction of the bridges, for example, a large sandbar has emerged near Kansas University’s boathouse in Burcham Park.
“It is there now,” Wagner said. “Whether it stays there or not is one of the things we’ll try to figure out.”
The sandbar, though, is one of the few changes visible to the naked eye. Equally significant changes are happening on the bottom of the river. Wagner said contractors for Black & Veatch will be on boats in the river using electronic equipment to map the bottom of the river and measuring the velocity of the river’s flow.
In addition, engineers will have to predict the impact changes to the Bowersock Dam, which is just downstream of the plant, will have on the river. Plans call for an inflatable “rubber dam” to be installed on top of the existing dam. That will allow for higher water levels upstream of the dam, which will change the river’s sedimentation pattern.
Understanding the changing sedimentation patterns of the river will be important in determining what type of improvements are needed to make the river intakes work properly, Wagner said.
Wagner said he expects to start getting results from the study in the fall, but construction on a new intake likely would not begin until 2013.
Wagner said if problems with the intake do cause the Kaw plant to be shut down again, the city’s Clinton Water Treatment Plant is in a good position to serve the entire city.
“The Clinton plant can keep up with high demand,” Wagner said. “But it can’t keep up with a super summer peak that happens maybe once every five or 10 years.
“We feel like we have the Kaw intake reliable and cleaned out, but it is not in the condition we would like to operate under.”
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Posted: Jan 26, 2012 6:47 PM CSTUpdated: Jan 26, 2012 6:54 PM CST
By Laura McCallister, Multimedia Producer
By Stephen Mayer, Multimedia Journalist
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -
Thursday, crews from the Wyandotte County Sheriff's and Fire Departments along with a private towing service began pulling nearly a dozen cars and SUVs from the Kansas River.
Using thick steel cables and a massive crane, crews got to work pulling 11 vehicles from the river.
"The river level's low and the weather's pretty decent. The sheriff felt it was time to cleanup these vehicles," said Lt. Kelli Bailiff with the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department.
The area is known to be an eyesore when it comes to dumped cars, many of which are believed to be stolen so crews decided to put a major dent in the problem. Working as a team, dive teams with the fire department attached heavy duty cables to sunken cars, then crews with Independence Tow did the rest.
Next, sheriff's deputies stepped in as they began calling in license plate numbers in an effort to learn more about the vehicles. Eventually, the SUVs pulled out of the river will be taken to impound where detectives will search for any clues left behind.
"I have no idea what we will find. I hope there is some evidence –tools from crimes we're hoping to solve, some crimes from multiple agencies,"said Bailiff.
Bailiff said the best thing about this operation is it won't be an added expense to taxpayers. Independence Tow is offering their services free of charge and the fire department is turning it into a learning experience.
"The fire department, that's apart of their job, but they're also using this as a training exercise in order to rescue vehicles out of the water. It's a dual purpose for all of them," she said.
Bailiff said Thursday's work will go a long way in cleaning up the Kansas River, but knows it may never be a done deal.
The area is so notorious for being a stolen car dumping ground that crews will be at it again Friday as they pull more cars from the river.
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Posted: December 20, 2011 - 8:31pm
New regulations change the way Kansas anglers collect and use live bait fish beginning Jan. 1. They were approved to curtail the spread of invasive aquatic species — particularly Asian carp, zebra mussels, and white perch.
Few things today raise the ire of this country’s citizens as much as news that some government is going to add to the list of regulations already imposed on their favorite pastime or the business that provides their livelihood.
That’s understandable, and most of us could come up with a list of government regulations we deem overbearing and unnecessary.
We can support a list of regulations the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission will impose on Jan. 1, however, even as we acknowledge it has raised the ire of many fishermen and fisherwomen.
Some regulations really are necessary, and the wildlife, parks and tourism commission is doing what it must to slow the spread of invasive species that live in Kansas streams, rivers and lakes.
It may already be too late to corral zebra mussels, but there are other invasive species — such as Asian carp — whose migration might be slowed by the commission’s latest regulations.
As of Jan. 1, wild-caught live bait can be used only in the body of water where it is captured, and even then it cannot be taken across a dam or natural barrier on the same stream or river. It also will be illegal to transport live fish from a body of water designated as containing “aquatic nuisance species;” release any fish from another body of water into state-owned waters, navigable public rivers or federal reservoirs; and to transport boats on public highways unless all livewells and bilges are drained and drain plugs are removed when the boat exits the water.
The rules against movement of wild-caught live bait is designed to curb the spread of Asian carp, which closely resemble gizzard shad. Asian carp have spread to the Kansas River. The Asian silver carp has a habit of jumping from the water when disturbed and has been known to collide with people fishing in boats, which can cause severe injuries.
The regulations requiring livewells and bilges to be emptied and drainplugs removed target zebra mussels, which are common in some of the state’s lakes and spillways. Those rules, and the one against transporting live fish from a body of water known to contain “aquatic nuisance species,” will be a nuisance for people who like to eat some of what they catch and now prefer to do the cleaning after leaving the lake.
Nuisance or not, though, we don’t know that the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission had much choice in the matter. Doing nothing doesn’t seem like the right approach to a real problem.
And the people who fish and otherwise use the state’s streams, rivers and lakes should be just as interested as the commission in trying to control the spread of invasive species.
Members of The Capital-Journal Editorial Board are Gregg Ireland, Mike Hall, Fred Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Garry Cushinberry, Joyce Martin, John Stauffer, Frank Ybarra and Sally Zellers.
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November 25, 2011 - 08:12pm
Ryan Moore by no means was a novice kayaker.
He and David Greene had paddled on Lake Superior, the Gulf Coast and many other rivers.
Still, the 36-year-old Lawrence doctor drowned on the Kansas River in July when his kayak became ensnared in what is known as a keeper hydraulic, a water flow that recirculates objects that get caught in it.
“That current is what’s called a drowning machine,” Greene said.
Such a situation is created by a low-head dam, just like the one used by Topeka’s water treatment facility. Many similar dams exist across the country.
Greene is helping lead a charge with the Friends of the Kaw River to turn the dam into a low-grade rapids to alleviate the dangers, as other cities have done, and allow that portion of the river to become more recreational friendly.
“We aren’t looking to lay blame,” he said. “We’re just trying to prevent another death from another individual that could certainly happen.”
Two people in August 2007 also drowned when the canoe they were in capsized after it went over the spillway at the south end of the weir.
Braxton Copley, director of the office of utilities and transportation for Topeka, said the deaths were tragedies.
The city is open to further improvements to enhance safety, he said, beyond the installation of the two portage ramps in 2010 on the river’s north banks that accompanied the installation of signs to alert oncoming paddlers.
Copley said he has written into the 2012 Capital Improvement Budget a request for a $25,000 project.
The dollars would come from grants, operating funds and private donations to “do a study of the weir,” he said, “and provide design options for improvements to reduce the downstream hydraulic.”
The decision to approve such a project and funding methods would be left to the Topeka City Council.
The Friends of the Kaw pitched the idea in October at a meeting of the Topeka-Shawnee County Riverfront Authority.
Mike Calwell, a longtime member of the Kaw group, estimated the cost of filling the dam with boulders to create the rapids would be less than $250,000.
Calwell told those in attendance the rapids could be designed to be rated Class 2, which means anything — including rafts, canoes and inner tubes — could safely and easily navigate the feature.
Greene, who has navigated the Kaw several times, said paddling to the portage ramps to bypass the water weir is doable, though certain conditions can make the action more difficult.
He said most kayakers avoid the first sandbar island group on the river’s north side because an old 1930s dam remains in the area, which prevents kayakers from paddling up that side of the river to the boat ramps.
Instead, they travel to the south side of the river toward the mouth of the dam in a curve-like fashion, Greene said, and then navigate north to the ramps.
However, in some instances the level of the water is up and the current is stronger, he said.
“If you mis-paddle or anything along that line, you could end up having a bad outcome as my friend Ryan did,” Greene said.
He also points to another hazard, particularly as a person approaches the dam because the water’s rate of speed increases the closer it gets to where it drops off the weir.
“You can’t see that drop-off coming up ahead from the level of a kayake,” Greene said.
Moore, a 36-year-old doctor living in Lawrence, died in July in a drowning accident at the low-head dam. He had been kayaking the river.
Ellen Guthrie, aquatics director for the Jayhawk Area Council, said any river is inherently dangerous. Even farm ponds pose risks, which is why caution and safety practices are paramount when in and around water.
In her work with the Boy Scouts since the late 1990s, Guthrie has come to learn there are “really strong feelings about the Kansas River.”
Many folks have told her they refuse to boat the Kaw, while many others frequently have used it and reported having wonderful experiences.
Guthrie said she has yet to paddle the Kaw, but taking a trip down the river is something she wants to do.
She just can’t convince some of the people she knows to join her.
“People tend to have a definite feeling about it one way or another,” Guthrie said
The Kansas River is known to have shifting sandbars and other potential unknowns, but Guthrie said she didn’t consider those to be reasons to stay off the water.
“Sometimes the fun of canoeing is what you’re going to come across,” she said.
As for turning the water weir into a beginners rapids, Guthrie said she thinks it would be a good idea to develop more recreational activities with the river.
“That could be such a nifty feature,” she said.
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Posted: October 8, 2011 - 10:20am
By The Associated Press
KANOPOLIS, Kan. — State wildlife officials say zebra mussels have now been found in a 14th Kansas lake.
KWCH-TV reports an adult zebra mussel turned up in a stilling basin at Kanopolis Reservoir, with mussel larvae found in the lake itself. The reservoir and state park are located in central Kansas, about 30 miles southwest of Salina.
The invasive zebra mussels are not native to Kansas. They can multiple quickly, clogging water lines and intakes and crowding out native species.
The mussels typically spread between lakes by attaching to boats. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has cautioned boaters and lake users to inspect, clean and drain boats and other equipment before leaving a lake.
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Posted: October 19, 2011 - 5:33pm
Mike Calwell, a longtime member of the Friends of the Kaw, on Wednesday presented an idea to the Topeka-Shawnee County Waterfront Authority that would turn the Kansas River weir into a low-grade rapids to address safety concerns. On the slideshow in the background is an example of what such a project could look like.
The city of Topeka’s weir near its water treatment facility along the Kansas River has claimed the lives of three boaters in the past four years.
Mike Calwell, a longtime member of the Friends of the Kaw group, on Wednesday unveiled a plan he wants explored to help turn the low-water dam into “a rapids and not a place where people drown.”
Calwell presented a slideshow to the Topeka-Shawnee County Riverfront Authority during its meeting that outlined what he said would be an inexpensive undertaking that could be financed through grants, donations and matching city funds.
He asked that the riverfront authority sign a resolution expressing support for the project, but members thought it better to let city experts evaluate the technical aspects and report back at the authority’s next meeting in January.
The idea, Calwell said, is to take large rocks and boulders and fill in the downstream portion of the dam to eliminate the dangerous drop-off. This would turn it into a low-grade rapids.
“Our Topeka dam could be made into a beginners rapids,” he said.
With its current setup, river-goers can drop off the weir’s east side, become trapped in what is called a “keeper hydraulic” in the water at the base of the dam, and drown.
“I think this is pretty urgent if we’re talking about saving lives,” he said.
Calwell estimated the cost of filling in the dam with boulders at less than $250,000.
Don Rankin, a city public works department supervisor, was at the meeting and expressed concern that creating a rapids would generate a host of new safety issues.
However, Calwell said the rapids would be rated Class 2, which means anything — including rafts, canoes and inner tubes — could safely and easily navigate it.
Rankin also said the primary purpose of the multimillion-dollar weir investment is “to get the city water.”
“We don’t want something that is going to cause our structures to fail,” he said.
Doug Kinsinger, a riverfront authority member, said the idea would “certainly meet our objectives to make (the river) safer and more recreationally friendly.”
Kinsinger said he wanted city experts to help ensure it would be the correct engineering solution before proceeding to enlist the guidance of hydrology engineers with experience designing such projects.
Calwell visited Charles City, Iowa, a town of about 7,600 that had a similarly dangerous situation with a weir that caused a fatality on its Cedar River.
The city came up with enough money to have hydrology engineers construct a series of rapids that gradually bridged the gap from the top of the weir to its drop-off point below.
He said it has been a success of which the city is proud.
■ Joshua Bryant, 25, and Richard Heyroth, 30, both of Topeka, drowned Aug. 5, 2007, in the Kansas River when the canoe they were in capsized after it went over a spillway at the south end of the weir.
■ The weir also was the scene of the July 15 drowning of Ryan L. Moore, 36, of Lawrence, who was kayaking on the river.
The city in 2010 built boat ramps upstream and downstream from the weir.
Calwell said it is only a matter of time before another accidental drowning occurs near the dam.
A Facebook page dedicated to the movement to fill the Topeka dam has more than 1,000 people who have “responded enthusiastically,” he said. More than 300 signatures have been obtained with an online petition in support of it.
“Really, it’s the right thing to do,” Calwell said.
The riverfront authority’s next meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, 2012, at 1020 S. Kansas Ave.
Corey Jones can be reached
at (785) 295-5612
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