Kansas River Dredging Raises Concerns (USA)
Friends of the Kaw (FOK), a conservation group focused on protecting the Kansas River, is anxiously awaiting the public notice on a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) on Kansas River sand and gravel dredging.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release the notice in early October.
FOK is concerned about elements of the ongoing environmental assessment process. The Corps is not carrying out the assessment itself. Instead, the dredgers are paying a private consultant to provide a report to serve as the basis for the Corps’ draft EA.
“Through the NEPA process, the Corps of Engineers has an obligation to be skeptical about the conclusions of the dredgers’ hired consultants,” said Mark Dugan, FOK’s attorney.
“The Corps needs to exercise independent judgment, and it should not simply define down what environmental impact is ‘significant.’ As a permitting agency, the Corps’ job is to protect and manage waters, not to protect the industry it’s regulating.”
“We are concerned that the dredgers paying for the draft report injects a troubling note into what otherwise appears to be an open, transparent, and impartial process that protects the public interest,” said Laura Calwell, Kansas Riverkeeper and FOK executive director.
Once the Corps issues the draft EA, they will then hold a thirty-day public comment period. They will also hold an open house for public reactions to the EA before developing a final version.
However, if the Corps concludes in a “Finding of No Significant Impact” as a result of the EA process, then the Corps will not pursue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The problem is that the lack of an EIS would clear the way for a massive increase in private dredging on the Kaw. The Corps is expected to issue their final decision on the November 2011 proposal for five private dredging companies to increase dredging on the Kaw by close to 50%, from 2.2 million tons to 3.2 million tons by the end of the year.
“The EA is key to the dredging decision,” said Calwell. “Yet the EA is at risk of being compromised.”
Press Release, October 1, 2013