Now is the time to shut down all river dredging, not expand it so drastically.
These are the same companies who damaged the riverbed in the first place.
It doesn’t make sense to let them do it all over again.”

– Laura Calwell, FOK Riverkeeper


Will the future of the Kaw look Like this:                                              Or this:

Update January 22, 2013: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has extended in-river dredge permits on the Kansas River for one year while they complete an updated environmental review.  The permits are subject to the 1990 Regulatory Plan and accordingly, Master's Dredging and Penny's Concrete will have to cease dredging between Bowersock Dam and Eudora on May 25, 2013 because of unacceptable amounts of bed degradation.American Rivers, a national nonprofit river advocacy group, has named the Kansas River as one of America's Most Endangered Rivers due to the increased threat of in-river sand dredging.  You can download FOK's and the Corps press release below.  We will keep our followers informed on any new opportunities to make additional public comment.

From the Public Notice issues in November of 2011: Five Kansas sand and gravel companies recently proposed to increase dredging on the Kansas River by more the 50%, including re-opening stretches previously closed because of unacceptable degradation from earlier dredging activities.  That proposal is currently under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a decision expected sometime this year.
"The America's Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point," says Fay Augustyn of American Rivers. "We all need healthy rivers for our drinking water, health, economy and quality of life.  We hope citizens will join us to ensure a clean, healthy Kansas River for generations to come."

"The Kaw River is truly at a crossroad," says Laura Calwell, the Kansas Riverkeeper and executive director of Friends of the Kaw. "This dredging decision will have a big impact on our future water security.  The Kansas administration has been very proactive in water conservation issues in other parts of the state, and we hope they can bring this conservation stance to bear on water quality issues in the Kaw Valley."

"Hopefully this American Rivers designation will alert Kansans to the economic potential of further recreational and business development on the river," says Chad Lamer, president of Friends of the Kaw.  "The Department of Interior has named the Kansas River Water Trail as a top priority, and this project could mean a lot to communities along the river."

Most Endangered River Award General Information

Kansas Action Alert - here you can download the Kansas River Press Release & Kansas Most Endangered River Fact Sheet

What You Can Do

About the Report

Kansas Public Radio Story

Lawrence Journal World Article

Topeka Capitol Journal Article

41 Action News Report

WIBW News Report

WIBW Article

American River's Blog by Dr. Melinda Daniels

KC Star Letter to the Editor by Mary Helen Korbelik


Five companies have applied for thirteen dredging permits in Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas, and Shawnee Counties (ten existing sites and three new). Four applicants are seeking to expand their operations by expanding their dredging range, increasing tonnage removed, or re-opening areas the Army Corps already closed due to “unacceptable degradation” from previous dredging.

Currently, these five companies are authorized to extract a total of 2.2 million tons from the river. The new permits would increase that number by almost 50%, to 3.2 million tons.

New study captures dredging damage to the Kaw

New research from K-State (see press release) shows that these private dredging operations widen and deepen the Kaw River channel, leading to a drop in the water level of the river and of the nearby water table and causing riverbank erosion. In a sand bed river like the Kaw, dredge holes also have the capacity to migrate both up and downstream, not stopping unless they hit a hard structure like bedrock or a dam.

Dredging physically damages the river channel in ways that threaten public river uses - water accessibility for drinking water treatment and irrigation intakes, habitat for fish communities, soil conservation of some of the nation's most valuable farmland, and preservation of taxpayer-funded structures like bridge footings and flood control.

This new information calls into question the 1991 EIS and regulatory plan that the USACE uses to assess the Kaw – information that is more than two decades old.

More resources


The cumulative, damaging effects of river dredging are not in the public interest. (More facts available here).

Damage to our drinking water.

  • Dredging stirs up sediments and industrial pollutants that are expensive for municipal treatment plants to remove from drinking water.
  • Over 600,000 Kansans get their drinking water from the Kaw – for example, one-third of Johnson County, and all of Topeka.
  • Three major municipal intakes draw water directly from the river and several more municipalities draw water from wells near the river.

Erosion of private property and taxpayer infrastructure.

  • Dredging causes erosion to valuable farmland and wildlife habitat.
  • Erosion also threatens taxpayer-funded infrastructure like flood control measures, bridges, and roads.
  • Cables for dredging rigs are hazardous to recreational boaters, and the river tourism that several communities have worked hard to promote.

Economic benefits to ending dredging.

  • There is no need for the destructive practice of river dredging - other sand companies are already pursuing the practical, economic, and reasonable alternative of sand pit mining.
  • Taking dredges off the Kaw will not increase the price of sand and gravel, and it will not have negative impacts on jobs or the economy.
  • Ending dredging will ultimately reduce the cost of drinking water treatment and reduce the costs of erosion to private and government property.

Laura Calwell,
Jan 22, 2013, 9:24 AM