Lawrence Trafficway (SLT)
Threat to Haskell Baker Wetlands
|Contact: Carey Maynard-Moody.
Link or Description
March 8, 2005
| Southeast Lawrence proposal splits city, county - Lawrence Journal World
March 6, 2005
| Rare, undeveloped land attracts dueling suitors - Lawrence Journal World
February 17, 2005
| City Commission hopefuls back trafficway - Lawrence Journal World
January 3, 2004
Opponents Prepare for a Fight - Lawrence Journal
December 13, 2003
selects 32nd Street route for SLT - Lawrence Journal
Haskell’s Soul, the story of a threatened wetland
refuge by Mike Caron
October 19, 2003
to the Editor, SLT Insight, from Mike Ford
October 15, 2003
to review alternate SLT route (article from Lawrence
October 5, 2003
Topic Link: Discussion Forum on Larryville.com
to sue corps over trafficway decision
by By Michael Caron, founding member of Save the Wetlands
February 20, 2003
Letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
February 15, 2003
Needed by March 3 for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
February 15, 2003
of SLT Events, August 2002 - February 2003
October 2, 2002
|This Place is
Soaked in Indian History
October 1, 2002
from Elaine Giessel, Kanza Group Conservation Chair
October 1, 2002
from Karl Birns, faculty of the Environmental Studies
Program at the University of Kansas
September 14, 2002
A Simple Message to Send By September 30
September 10, 2002
Testimony on September 12
September 8, 2002
Position Statement and Testimony from Kansas Chapter
September 4, 2002
Hearing, Thursday, September 12th @ 6:30 PM in Building
21 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper Street.
Opportunity for the public to comment on KCD (KS City
District, Corps of Engineers)'s Draft EIS (Environmental
Impact Study) & KDOT's requested section 404 permit
to complete the relocation of Hwy 10 along 32nd street.
Project is commonly referred to as the eastern leg of
the South Lawrence Trafficway.
of Proposed Routes
Article in Lawrence Journal World (goes to LJW website)
Journal World Article on Corps of Engineers Study which
endorses two differenct routes.
|Info on the Corps
of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
March 29, 2002
Sierra Club oppose the SLT?
is Sierra Club not satisfied with KDOT's proposal?
Kanza Group Letter
to Corps of Engineers
South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT) is a proposed highway by-pass
meant to connect I-70, west of Lawrence, to K-10, east of
town. As the name implies, the highway would run south of
Lawrence. This project is unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible.
In addition, the Sierra Club opposes the SLT because it would
endanger the Haskell-Baker wetlands, encourage sprawl-style
development south and west of Lawrence, and intrude upon areas
of historic, cultural, and religious importance to Native
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) finished the
western half of the SLT in 1996. It runs from the Lecompton
exit on I-70 to Iowa St., where it ends at the "bridge
to nowhere." In 2001, KDOT applied to the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers for a permit to build the eastern half. The fight
over KDOT getting this permit is the next big phase of this
conflict. Currently, everyone is awaiting the results of an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being done for KDOT by
the firm HNTB. KDOT has publicly said that they hope to get
a completed EIS by spring, 2002. Getting the EIS any later
would likely delay the start of construction until after the
very pro-highway Graves administration is out of office, and
KDOT fears a new administration would kill the SLT. KDOT's
timeline suffered a severe blow, however, when the Corps announced
in December, 2001 that they would allow all 557 federally-recognized
tribes the opportunity to comment on the proposed highway.
To illustrate its commitment to opposing the SLT, the executive
committee of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club met in
Lawrence in November of 2001, toured the Baker Wetlands, and
issued a statement pledging to fight the SLT through all legal
means. Right now, the Chapter is in a holding pattern, like
everyone else, waiting for the results of the EIS. In the
meantime, we are working with other Lawrence-area groups on
submitting an application to put the Haskell-Baker Wetlands
on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Fighting the SLT, like all successful environmental efforts,
will require lots of grassroots support. No matter where you
live in Kansas, you can contact KDOT right now through the
and tell them you oppose the SLT. People in and around Lawrence
should send the same message to members of the Lawrence City
and Douglas County Commissions.
Finally, people all across Kansas should contact their state
legislators to express concern about the extraordinary cost
of building the SLT, especially given the dismal condition
of the state's budget. The SLT will be an particularly expensive
road to build because of bribes KDOT has offered various segments
of the community in order to silence their opposition. During
the summer of 2001, KDOT reached an agreement with the Bureau
of Indian Affairs (BIA), which administers Haskell, that the
BIA would not oppose a 32nd St. alignment for the SLT if KDOT
tore up 31st St, restored the old roadway to wetland, and
returned the wetland to Haskell. In January, 2002, KDOT agreed
to give Baker a deal worth $8.5 million as long as the university
does not oppose building the SLT across the wetlands. Included
in the deal is money to build a nature center less than a
mile from the existing Prairie Park Nature Center. It hardly
makes sense for KDOT to lavish this much money on a single
highway at a time when communities all across Kansas are crying
out for money for transportation projects.
Does Sierra Club Oppose the SLT So Strongly?
1) THE Kansas Department of Transportation
has yet to identify a need for the SLT
At one time, SLT supporters claimed
that the by-pass would ease congestion on 23rd St. They now
concede that the SLT will do nothing to help 23rd. Instead,
supporters make vague statements that the need for the road
is obvious, without ever discussing the criteria used to make
this judgment. The only justification listed on KDOT's official
SLT website (www.southlawrencetrafficway.org) is that the
by-pass will be an important link between Topeka, Lawrence,
and the Kansas City area. They do not address the obvious
objection that these three are already linked by I-70, which
transects Topeka, which is accessible within 15 minutes from
anywhere in Lawrence, and which connects with K-7, I-435,
and I-635 providing full access to all of Johnson County.
2) KDOT has
not dealt honestly with the community in promoting this project
Throughout the SLT's long history, KDOT has seemed more interested
in building a highway, no matter what the cost, than in working
with Lawrence to meet the community's transportation needs.
When a diverse group of community stakeholders met last year
to discuss the SLT, one of the few things they could all agree
on was that KDOT and its officials were "arrogant"
and "untrustworthy". Even people who supported the
SLT felt this way about KDOT. More remarkably, a local official
with the Corps of Engineers has publicly criticized Mike Rees,
KDOT's lead person on the SLT, for undermining the process
and not acting in good faith. Given KDOT's sorry record of
following its own agenda and ignoring the community, we view
any project spearheaded by KDOT with skepticism.
3) The SLT
would damage sensitive environmental areas
There are now 4 potential routes for the SLT under consideration
by KDOT. Three of these routes (32nd St., 35th St., and 38th
St.) run through the Baker Wetlands (see map at www.southlawrencetrafficway.org)
This 573-acre site, owned by Baker University in Baldwin City,
sits on the northern bank of the Wakarusa River. It is home
to 225 species of birds, and multitudes of plants and other
wildlife. It includes 40 acres of virgin prairie. Every fall,
hundreds of school children and other members of the public
tag thousands of butterflies at the Wetlands. The tags help
researchers from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas
track the butterflies' migration (see www.monarchwatch.org).
The National Park Service recognized it as a National Natural
Landmark in 1969, and Kansas designated it a Natural and Scientific
Area in 1987. It is true that the area has not always been
in such a natural state, but it is clearly now a diverse,
healthy, functioning wetland ecosystem that cleans our water,
protects against floods, acts as a nursery and sanctuary for
wildlife, and provides the other benefits associated with
wetlands (see www.ramsar.org/values_intro_e.html for discussion
of these benefits). Running a highway through the Wetlands
would do serious, permanent injury.
4) The SLT
would desecrate areas scacred to Indians
Any of the proposed SLT alignments north of the Wakarusa
would threaten two sites of great historical, cultural, and
religious importance to Indians.
One site is the Medicine Wheel. It
was built in 1992 near the southern edge of the Haskell Indian
Nations University campus (formerly Haskell Indian Junior
College). Haskell students, faculty, and alumni all use the
Medicine Wheel for meditation, prayer, and to conduct religious
rituals. Building the SLT north of the Wakarusa would drastically
increase traffic in the area. The resulting increases in air
and noise pollution would seriously degrade the Medicine Wheel's
environs and deprive the Haskell community of an important
The other threatened site is Baker
Wetlands, which is a burial ground for an undetermined number
of Haskell students. Haskell was a boarding school during
the era when the government forcibly removed Indian children
from their families and sent them away for assimilation into
Anglo culture. Many of the children died from disease or committed
suicide in despair while at the boarding school and an unknown
number were secretly buried in the Wetlands by their compatriots.
The Wetlands also served as a clandestine meeting place where
students could temporarily reunite with their families. As
part of the assimilation process, the Haskell administration
prohibited students from seeing their families. However, students
could sometimes sneak away at night and briefly rendezvous
with their loved ones hidden in the belt of trees where the
Wetlands bordered the Wakarusa. The Baker Wetlands are so
historically important that they are being nominated for inclusion
on the National Registry of Historic Places. Running the SLT
through the Baker Wetlands would permanently destroy an area
of great historical and cultural importance to Haskell, Lawrence,
and the entire nation.
5) The SLT
would threaten historical sites
The 41st St. alignment of the SLT would take the highway through
the Meairs farmstead, which is the oldest in Douglas County
and the second oldest in Kansas. The Meairs family has lived
on the property, which is still a working farm, since William
Meairs homesteaded the original 160 acres in 1854. Destruction
of this farmstead would represent a great historical loss.
6) The SLT
would encourage sprawl
Building roads encourages urban sprawl, and that sprawl comes
at a great economic, ecological, and social cost to the affected
community (see www.sierraclub.org/sprawl). We believe that
the SLT would make western Lawrence a bedroom community for
Johnson County. We also believe that the SLT, in conjunction
with the new and/or larger US-59 that KDOT hopes to build
between Lawrence and Ottawa, would increase the already rapid
pace at which developers convert farmland into low-density
housing south and west of Lawrence. We recognize that people
have a right to live wherever they want. However, we do not
believe that people have a right to move into remote, exurban
areas and then demand that taxpayers build expensive highways
to ease the new homeowner's self-imposed commuting problems.
already has more than enough roads
Kansas ranks 4th in the nation in number of highway miles,
according to the 2000 Statistical Abstract of the United States.
We trail only Texas, California, and Illinois, even though
we rank 34th in population and 15th in size.
cannot afford to take care of the roads it already has
The American Society of Civil Engineers says that 31% of our
roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 26% of our bridges
are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (see:
Prudence dictates that we take care of the roads we already
have before building new ones.
WHY IS THE SIERRA
CLUB NOT SATISFIED WITH KDOT'S OFFER TO RESTORE WETLANDS TO
REPLACE ANY LOST TO THE SLT?
In wetlands, as in Xeroxing, copies
are never as good as the original. A recent report by the
National Academy of Sciences detailed the many shortcomings
of restored wetlands compared to natural ones (www.nap.edu/books).
Foremost among those shortcomings is that a restoration would
be less biologically diverse than the existing wetlands --
a black-and-white copy of a picture that should have vibrant
colors. The Baker Wetlands have a proven ability to attract
a wide variety of organisms, even rare, finicky ones. Restorations
would rely upon people making their best guess as to what
conditions the flora and fauna want, and many of these guesses
would be wrong. Thus, any restoration would inevitably be
less diverse than the current wetlands. Because biodiversity
is key to maintaining the health of a habitat, the depleted
restorations would be more susceptible to harm from diseases,
invasive weeds, natural disturbances like storm or drought,
and other threats. And all this is true even if KDOT makes
a good-faith, decades-long effort to construct and maintain
the very best restorations they can. However, if KDOT tries
to shortchange the restorations at any point, then we could
end up with nothing more than some soggy ground in place of
a valued natural resource.
Listing the shortcomings of restored
wetlands sometimes confuses people because of claims that
the current Baker Wetlands are, themselves, restored. The
confusion arises because these claims are only partial truths.
The Baker Wetlands did suffer disturbances in the past, but
this does not mean that they are not natural or worth preserving.
It is true that Haskell students once farmed the area. However,
the school used most of the area for grazing or haying, both
of which are far less destructive than plowing. Also, the
farming activities on the Wetlands always had both a limited
scope and limited success precisely because the area is a
wetlands. It was frequently too wet to farm. These factors
prevented complete destruction of the Wetland's environment,
made it easier for the area to heal once the disturbances
stopped, and made the healing more complete than if the area
was restored from "scratch" on an area now devoid
of natural remnants. Because any restoration would likely
take place on much more highly disturbed land, it is doubtful
that it could rejuvenate as fully as the wetlands have.
re: the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway
The Wakarusa Group and the KS Chapter
Sierra Club support National Sierra Club's campaign to stop
urban sprawl. We recognize that road building encourages traffic
and sprawl. We foresee that the creation of new highways such
as the proposed eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway
is a sprawl magnet. Expanding highways encourages increases
in traffic. Studies have shown that places that have built
the most roads have not relieved traffic congestion. Adding
capacity to highways actually generates additional travel
as people take more car trips. The sprawl that follows such
road building creates even more demand and swallows precious
The local Sierra Club group and state
chapter believe that citizens deserve clean air and land conservation
for quality of life. Cars and trucks served by such road building
initiatives as the SLT are among the largest sources of smog
and cancer-causing pollution in America.. We endorse only
those KDOT proposals and policies that move people and products
in a healthful, sustainable fashion such as bus and rail service.
These alternatives can preserve greenspace (including farmland)
and prevent urban sprawl while connecting the communities
in northeast KS. KDOT initiatives that promote walkable communities
with links to public transportation are supported by the state
and local Sierra Club.
We firmly believe that the transportation
planning process should be a transparent one that operates
with public participation. The Wakarusa Group and the KS Sierra
Club are interested in participating with KDOT in designing
a community and nature-friendly transportation system of choices,
not more road space.
Further Reading - for people wanting a little more
information on why the Sierra Club opposes the SLT and the
history of the fight against the highway.
The Lawrence Journal World has archived
all of their SLT related stories since 1999 at www.ljworld.com/section/slt
Club - Wakarusa Group:
For information on how you can
participate in multi-modal transportation planning in Lawrence
and adjacent urban areas, contact:
Carey Maynard-Moody, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or (785) 841-9594
Michael Campbell, Conservation Chair, email@example.com,
Group Letter to Corps of Engineers
Operations Division, Regulatory Branch
Department of the Army
Kansas City District, Corps of Engineers
700 Federal Building
Kansas City, MO 64106-2896
RE: Proposed Extension of Kansas
Highway 10 in Douglas County, KS
It has come to the attention of the
Kanza Group ( representing Johnson and Wyandotte Counties)
of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club that the Kansas Department
of Transportation (KDOT) has proposed to construct an extension
of Kansas Highway 10 (K-10) in Douglas County. The Kanza Group
has a number of concerns related to the highway alignments
that are currently under consideration, all of which would
have serious impacts on the property referred to in your letter
of February 6, 2002 as the Baker Wetland.
The Thomas Hart Benton Group on the
Missouri side of State Line and the Kanza Group in Kansas
co-host widely publicized field trips, or "outings,"
for their members and for the general public in order to provide
a variety of outdoor recreational and environmental education
opportunities. Normally, several trips to the Haskell-Baker
Wetlands are scheduled each year, encouraging participants
to observe seasonal changes in area wildlife and ecosystems.
As part of the outings activities, participants are educated
not only on the environmental values of wetlands, but also
on the specific cultural and historical significance of this
site to the Native American community.
As Chair of the Conservation Committee,
I wish to submit the following comments on behalf of the more
than 1000 members of the Kanza Group:
Kanza Group is opposed to any alignment of the proposed K-10
construction that has the potential to destroy the integrity
of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands and its wildlife. These
wetlands provide valuable ecological services by mitigating
nonpoint source pollution, by reducing flood events and erosion,
by recharging valley aquifers, and by supporting a highly
productive and biologically diverse natural ecosystem. There
appears to be little empirical knowledge of the hydrology
of this wetland. Re-construction of 31st Street and construction
of any of the currently proposed alignments are likely to
cause irreparable changes in the wetland's water balance.
The Kanza Group has additional concerns about potential degradation
of water quality due to run-off of road chemicals (e.g., oil,
grease, antifreeze, road de-icing compounds, and hazardous
cargoes) and about the effects of increases in air pollution,
in noise and light sources.
Kanza Group supports nomination of all of the land associated
with the site of the former Haskell Institute, including the
current campus of the Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU)
and the Haskell-Baker Wetlands, for listing on the National
Register of Historic Places. The area should receive
the highest level of protection afforded by the National Historic
Preservation Act (NHPA). Due to the sensitivity of the Native
American issues associated with the sacred nature of the site,
it is critical that the Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District
(the Corps) follow precisely the Section 106 review process,
as described in 36 CFR Part 800.
Kanza Group requests that all of the federally recognized
Indian tribes, including those that currently have, historically
have had or may have students at the Haskell site, be afforded
equal opportunity for consultation in the Section 106 review
process. The NHPA requires the Corps to consult with
any Indian tribe that attaches religious and cultural significance
to historic properties that may be affected by this project.
This requirement applies regardless of the location of the
historic property. Despite the fact that there are Indian
students representing over 160 tribes currently enrolled
at Haskell INU, the Corps sent letters inviting formal "government
to government" consultation to only 26 (or 24?) tribes.
The legal basis for this determination should be clarified.
Kanza Group requests that the comment period for this proposal
be extended significantly to allow adequate time for tribal
governments to convene, address this matter and respond
to the Corps request for their concerns. Consultation
in the section 106 process should provide any Indian tribe
involved "a reasonable opportunity to identify its
concerns about historic properties, advise on the identification
and evaluation of historic properties, including those of
traditional religious and cultural importance, articulate
its views on the undertaking's effects on such properties,
and participate in the resolution of adverse effects."
Lack of time to address complex issues is a problem often
cited in Environmental Justice cases. Forty-five days is
simply not sufficient time for informed participation.
3. The Kanza Group requests
clarification on why any unmarked burial sites should be addressed
by the Unmarked Burial Sites Preservation Board under Kansas
state law and not under the provisions of the Native American
Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). If
any of the currently proposed project alignments is approved,
burial sites encountered in the Haskell-Baker Wetlands are
going to be "in the possession or control" of Baker
University and/or KDOT, either one of which would qualify
as "institutions or State or local government receiving
Federal funds." Furthermore, unidentified Native American
graves in the Haskell-Baker Wetlands could belong to virtually
any of the federally recognized tribes, not just those tribes
in the State of Kansas. Evaluation of unmarked burial sites
should be in accordance with federal law.
4. The Kanza Group supports
complete analysis of additional, reasonable alternative alignments
of the proposed K-10 extension in the draft EIS.
The three alignments currently proposed by KDOT would all
have significant negative impacts on the wetland ecosystems
and on the spiritual, cultural, and historic values held by
the Native American community. The draft EIS must include
analyses of alternate routes south of the Wakarusa River,
of modified routing along currently existing thoroughfares
in town, and of the "no action" alternative. These
analyses should include all costs associated with each alternative,
including purchase of right-of-way and long term mitigation
efforts for wetland losses.
Kanza Group considers the KDOT project and the proposed alignments
of K-10 through the Haskell-Baker Wetlands an example of a
classic "Environmental Justice" case. The
Haskell community will clearly bear a disproportionate share
of the negative environmental consequences and cultural impacts
of this project, while accruing little or no socio-economic
benefits. Under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act
of 1978, the government is mandated to protect and preserve
for Native Americans their "inherent right of freedom
to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions."
The Act protects access to sacred ceremonial sites. In the
case of the K-10 extension project, the wetlands themselves
are considered sacred by Native Americans, including the Indian
burial sites, the sweat lodges and the ceremonial plants gathered
there. The proximity of the proposed project to the Haskell
INU Medicine Wheel threatens disruption of current religious
practices at that site through noise and light intrusion.
6. The Kanza Group supports Resolution
#EWS-02-003 of the National Congress of American Indians (adopted
February 25-27, 2002), which endorses the efforts of the Haskell
community to protect the wetlands and opposes construction
of the K-10 extension on any of the Haskell Indian Nations
University past and present property.
Please include the Kanza Group of the
Sierra Club, and my name as point of contact, on your list
of "interested parties" to be notified of any future
issues regarding this project. The Kanza Group requests notification
of completion of the draft EIS so that we can submit further
comment at that time.
These comments are respectfully submitted
on March 23, 2002, by:
C. Elaine Giessel 913-888-8517
Conservation Chair, Kanza Group of the Kansas Chapter of the
11705 W. 101st Terrace
Overland Park, KS 66214
Back to Top
on the Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
The Virtual EIS - By Aug.
16, the summary of the draft EIS will be posted to www.southlawrencetrafficway.org
(click on Project News). Visitors to the site will be able
to view the summary and request the entire document on CD.
By Aug. 30, the document will be offered free-of-charge on
CD as a supplement to the regular circulation methods of placing
the document in public places and holding a public hearing.
It is currently available at the listed libraries at the above
A Wakarusa study group
is being considered. Check back here for more details.
Journal World Article on Corps of Engineers Study which endorses
two differenct routes
(EMAILED FROM LJW Website)
You have been sent a story from our site, Lawrence Journal-World.
Corps of Engineers study
endorses two routes
By Mark Fagan
Finishing the South Lawrence
Trafficway through the Baker Wetlands stands
the best chance of meeting the city's growing traffic, safety
development needs, a federal study concludes.
But building the four-lane highway south of the Wakarusa River
protect existing wetlands and preserve cultural and historic
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a study released
Read the full story
Back to Top
Club Position Statement and Testimony on the Draft Environmental
Impact Statement prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Kansas City District regarding the proposed eastern leg of
the South Lawrence Trafficway
Mission, Purposes and Policy of the Sierra Club Compels Us
to Protect the Haskell-Baker Wetlands
The purposes of the Sierra Club are to explore, enjoy,
and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and
promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems
and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and
restore the quality of the natural and human environment;
and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
(Sierra Club Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, June 20,
The Sierra Club advocates a consistent
public policy to preserve and restore the hydrologic, biologic,
and aesthetic values of wetland as public assets. We place
highest priority on the protection of existing natural wetlands.
Because our goal is to reverse, not merely slow, the trend
of wetlands destruction and degradation, we also support restoration
of degraded wetlands. Wetlands protection should be promoted
further by increased public understanding and enjoyment of
wetland values through compatible uses. (Adopted by the Sierra
Club Board of Directors, May 2-3, 1987)
The Board of Directors of the Sierra
Club recognizes that to achieve our mission of environmental
protection and a sustainable future for our planet, we must
attain social justice and human rights at home and around
the globe. The Board calls on all parts of the Club to discuss
and explore the linkages between environmental quality and
social justice, and to promote dialogue, increased understanding
and appropriate action. (Adopted by the Sierra Club Board
of Directors – September 18-19, 1993)
We oppose efforts to dispossess indigenous
peoples of their lands, their cultures, and their right to
self-determination. We support Native Peoples’ wielding
of their sovereign powers to protect the environment and to
establish environmental justice. (Adopted by the Sierra Club
Board of Directors, February 17, 2001)
of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club to the preservation
of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.
Various groups within the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra
Club have sponsored “outings” in the Baker Wetlands
during the past few years. These outings are documented in
the Planet Kansas - the official publication of the Kansas
Chapter of the Sierra Club. These outings fulfill part of
the mission of the Sierra Club to “explore, enjoy and
protect the wild places of the earth.” The Wakarusa
Group of the Sierra Club, based in Lawrence, has been most
active in sponsoring outings in the Baker Wetlands. However,
the Kanza Group (based in Johnson and Wyandotte counties)
and the Southwind Group (in the Wichita area) have also sponsored
outings to the Baker Wetlands.
The Executive Committee of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra
Club met in Lawrence on November 15, 2001 and toured the Baker
Wetlands, guided by Sharon Ashworth - a K.U. doctoral student
specializing in wetlands issues. After that tour, the Kansas
Chapter’s Executive Committee expressed their concerns
publicly about proposals by the Kansas Department of Transportation
that would put a multi-lane highway through the Baker Wetlands.
The Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club’s Executive Committee
expressed its concerns that such highway proposals, if carried
out, would destroy the Baker Wetlands and violate the policies
of the Sierra Club with regard to preservation of existing
wetlands and protecting the human rights of indigenous peoples.
The Executive Committee of the State
Chapter of the Sierra Club decided on November 15, 2001 to
bring in the resources of the national Sierra Club to accomplish
the goal of preserving these wetlands. The Sierra Club’s
Kansas Chapter and the Wakarusa Group have worked with the
Wetlands Preservation Organization to put together a proposal
to secure the designation of the Haskell Baker Wetlands on
the National Historic Registry. We have also worked with the
WPO in facilitating tribal input into the Corps of Engineers
The Wakarusa Group and the State Chapter
of the Sierra Club have followed and participated in the decision-making
processes at the federal, state and local levels as proposals
for the South Lawrence Trafficway are developed. We have and
will continue to use all lawful means, to pursue all resources,
and to seek all allies to protect the environmental integrity
of these wetlands and the human rights of the indigenous peoples
who hold these wetlands as sacred places.
We have had the opportunity to review
the DEIS circulated by the COE and respectfully submit the
According to KDOT’s own survey, most of the
people who will use the South Lawrence Trafficway to go NONSTOP
from their point of origin to their destination (i.e. not
make any stops in Lawrence) are from Shawnee and Johnson counties.
43% of those surveyed said they drove completely through Lawrence
the last time they drove on K-10/23rd St. However, 61% of
residents of Topeka/eastern Shawnee County surveyed drove
completely through Lawrence. 73% of those surveyed rated traffic
along K-10/23rd St. as “poor”. However, the survey
shows that less than 30% of the residents of Shawnee and Johnson
counties rated the traffic flow as “poor.” In
other words, those who are most likely to use the SLT as an
alternative to 23rd St./Clinton Parkway to travel through
Lawrence, residents of Shawnee and Johnson counties, do not
think the 23rd St./Clinton Parkway route is “poor.”
On the other hand, more than 40% of
the residents of Lawrence and Douglas county rated the traffic
along K-10/23rd St. as “poor.” Yet it is Lawrence
and Douglas county residents who are not using K-10/23rd St.
to travel through Lawrence. Instead, 80% of residents in Douglas
county (outside Lawrence) made at least one stop while using
K-10/23rd St. 70% of the residents surveyed indicated they
made at least one stop in the City of Lawrence on the way
to their final destination the last time they used K-10/23rd
St. It would be safe to assume that a good number of those
stops were to Lawrence business establishments.
The conclusion that can be drawn from
this survey is that the SLT does not appear to be a road that
is needed to meet the perceived needs of those surveyed. Perhaps,
the money proposed for the SLT would be better-spent turning
23rd St into a non-stop expressway with parallel frontage
roads allowing access to businesses along the road - much
like Kellogg/U.S. 54 is becoming in Wichita. Or the money
would be better spent installing commuter rail lines that
allow residents of Shawnee and Johnson counties to travel
through Lawrence without stopping.
Traffic safety is the primary concern
of those surveyed and supposedly the primary concern of KDOT.
Yet there is no evidence in the DEIS that there has been any
data gathered or analyzed of traffic accident reports, from
the Lawrence Police Department, of trends in traffic accidents
along 23rd St./Clinton Parkway.
Unfortunately, regional mass transit did not make
the 1st cut of the screening process because it failed the
wrong criterion (ridership). However, ridership on mass transit
always starts out low but picks up over time. It never gets
to start if the “ridership” criterion is used
to determine eligibility of a transportation project.
50% of K-10 corridor users are commuters.
They deserve an option of regional transit so that if they
are dissatisfied with driving, they can be transported using
another mode of transportation other than driving. That would
lighten the load on the K-10 roadway, cut down on traffic
congestion and increase the safety of those who do use the
According to “The Wetland Impact Assessment
of the South Lawrence Trafficway” Appendix conducted
by ESI, overall, the 32nd St. B alignment has the greatest
potential impacts to wetland in the area (101.6 acres). The
42nd St. A alignment has the lowest projected potential impact
to wetlands in the area - 39.3 acres. (Total Impacts to Baker,
NWI and Probable Wetlands, 3.3, p. 39)
The offer of mitigation is appreciated and the Sierra
Club supports restoration of wetlands. However, the offer
of mitigation does not by itself justify the need for the
injustice of the 32nd St. route on Native American populations
President Clinton’s Executive Order on Environmental
Justice No. 12898, February, 11, 1984, states that, to the
extent practicable and permitted by law, a proposed project
may not have a disproportionately high and adverse human health
or environment effect on minority or low-income populations.
COE acknowledges on p. 4-52 that the
31st St. route would have the most perceived impacts on the
cultural and historical resources of HINU. Specifically, sweat
lodges and a medicine wheel are located on the southern part
of HINU’s campus and are places where “ceremonies
of renewal and purification are held and where belief in the
four elements – earth, air, fire and water – come
together to bless life.” HINU’s concerns are that
noise and other pollution would destroy any ceremonies held
on this portion of the campus.
The 32nd, 35th 38th and 42nd Street
alternatives would have less impact on the HINU campus. Logically,
the further the preferred alternative is from the HINU campus
the less of an impact the project will have on HINU.
The Applicant and KCD have determined
that the proposed project will not have a disproportionately
high and adverse human health or environmental effect on minority
or low-income populations.
Where is the measurement in the DEIS
that shows that the project will not have a disproportionately
high and adverse human health or environment effect on minority
at HINU considering the residency of the HINU population who
are almost entirely minority (Native American) whose human
spiritual health needs are rendered unachievable in the ceremonial
sites in close proximity of the preferred (32nd St.) route?
Furthermore, there is no evaluation of the human health effects
of emissions from increased vehicular traffic on minority
populations. This is an arbitrary and capricious conclusion
in the DEIS having no basis in fact or any scientific assessment.
on HINU’s Educational Mission which includes environmental
One of the missions of the Sierra Club, both nationally
and at the state and local levels, is environmental education.
The Sierra Club strongly supports HINU’s position that
the caretaker role of Native Americans demands that environmental
education be at the center of the HINU curriculum. Native
teachings of the relationship to the environment provide a
basis for numerous course offerings at HINU. HINU indicates
that in a typical year approximately 600 HINU students are
involved in courses that utilize the wetlands complex. HINU
considers its south campus and the wetlands complex the most
valuable instructional facility on and off the campus, and
believe it is important to protect for future generations.
Haskell Indian Nations University is
one of a few universities that have wetlands on the main campus.
Research studies at HINU include a National Science Foundation
funded Environmental Biology/Undergraduate Research Experience
grant awarded to HINU and the University of Kansas in 1993,
cooperative research studies with the University of Kansas
and Cornell University, and numerous other biological, ecological
and chemical studies on various plants and animals. These
studies not only have the potential to further science, but
also foster students’ observational skills, and provide
a unique forum for conveying Native and other cultural traditions.
Section 3.5.2, p. 3-9 of DEIS
It is the position of the Kansas Chapter
of the Sierra Club that the core environmental educational
mission of HINU (perhaps unique in all of North America) should
not be compromised for the purpose of locating a multi-lane
highway through the Baker Wetlands.
Significance of HINU and Baker Wetlands
According to Dec. 27, 2001 letter to Colonel Donald
R. Curtis from Ramon Powers, State Historic Preservation Officer
“the existing campus of HINU as well as the former HINU
lands now known as the Baker Wetlands is eligible for inclusion
in the National Register of Historic Places as a district.
This property possesses a significant concentration of buildings
and sites that are united historically. The HINU campus with
the Baker Wetlands is eligible as a district for the National
Register of Historic Places … since it is associated
with events that have made a significant contribution to the
broad patterns of our history….It is the SHPO’s
opinion that the entire existing HINU campus plus the Baker
Wetlands, that were originally part of HINU, meets the criteria
of eligibility of for the National Register of Historic Places
as a district.”
This recommendation by Mr. Powers is
supported by the Recommendation of the December 2001 study
“Determination of Eligibility for the National Register
of Historic Places of Haskell Indian Nations University and
the Baker Wetlands”, p. 31, written by Paul Brockington,
Jr. et al. in association with HNTB.
The last paragraph of Mr. Power’s
letter states: “If the Corps of Engineers, Kansas City
District, does not agree that HINU with the Baker Wetlands
is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,
you may request the opinion of the Secretary of Interior as
described in 36 CFR Part 800.4(c)(2). If you agree that the
property is eligible, the next step is in the Section 106
process is assessing the effects of the proposed project as
described in 36 CFR Part 800.5”
What determination has the COE,
KC District, made on this issue?
According to the DEIS noise study, existing conditions
along the proposed 32nd Street route of the SLT are 15 –
64 decibels. The Medicine Wheel is considered a “Category
A” activity where the acceptable noise levels should
be no more than 57 decibels. According to this same study,
residential developments fall into “Category B”
where the acceptable decibels are 67. Section 4.9.2 of the
DEIS, “Summary of impacts”, states that the proposed
noise wall would … result in dropping the noise level
below 66 decibels. (3-13, 3.9 Traffic Noise) Unfortunately,
such a “noise wall” would not drop the decibel
levels sufficiently to protect Native American ceremonies
held at the Medicine Wheel.
According to the “Summary of cultural
resources (p. 41-8, Section 4.6.9) “The project is rich
in historical and cultural assets. All of the build alternatives
would impact one of the cultural resources in the project
area. If a build alternative is selected minimization and
mitigation efforts will be conditions to any permit that KCD
might issue. These minimization and mitigation measures would
have to be developed in consultation with the SHPO and representatives
of those organizations with a clear interest in the cultural
resource in question.”
The noise generated by the traffic generated
on a multi-lane expressway running through the Haskell-Baker
Wetlands will impact the Sierra Club’s current use of
the wetlands area for outings. Because there are only 600
acres it will be virtually impossible to get away from the
traffic noise if a highway is put through the Baker Wetlands.
The Sierra Club believes that the proposed nature center and
noise berms will not be enough to mitigate the impacts of
the traffic noise from a multi-lane highway running through
the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.
The proposed 32nd St. B Alignment Is
Worse Than the 31st St. Alignment For Which “No-Build”
Was Recommended by the FHWA in 2000
From South Lawrence Trafficway, Final Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement, “Chapter 4 – Consequences of
31st Alternative”, p. 4-4 & 4-5.
“One impact not iterated in the
Final EIS is the impact of the 31st Street Alternative on
HINU. The location of the 31st Street Alternative would impact
spiritual and cultural practices, academic studies and development
plans according to the South Lawrence Trafficway Position
Paper, from HINU, October 27, 1993. HINU believes that a 31st
Street alignment would compromise the cultural beliefs and
values of Native Americans by destroying the natural habitat
including wetlands, disturbing sites of spiritual and cultural
importance, and polluting the air and water. It is HINU’s
cultural belief that all elements of the natural world were
created for the benefit of all and that all living things
are interconnected on a spiritual level. Any destruction or
disturbance of these elements negatively impacts their cultural
traditions and religious practices, (All Things Are Connected,
December 23, 1994).
The 31st Street Alternative would reduce
traffic volumes on 23rd Street by 15 percent by the year 2020.
The removal of through traffic from 23rd Street should enhance
local business access, traffic flow, and pedestrian, bicycle
and motorist safety. Traffic volumes on 31st Street, however,
would be expected to increase to just over 20,000 vehicles
per day. HINU believes the increased traffic would negatively
impact spiritual and cultural activities on the southern portion
of HINU (as stated in South Lawrence Trafficway Position Paper,
HINU, page 3 and 4 respectively). Construction of the 31st
Street Alternative would potentially have an impact on HINU’s
ability to develop the south portion of the campus.“
As a result of these problems associated
with the proposed 31st Street route and “[t]aking into
account the collaborative decision making process involving
public input, participation by HINU and cooperating resources
agencies, the study team could not reach a consensus in the
selection of any of the three build alternatives. The project
sponsors, Douglas County, the Kansas Department of Transportation,
and the Federal Highway Administration attempted to achieve
a consensus on the 31st Street alignment by meeting with the
Haskell Board of Regents. The 31st alignment was identified
as meeting the project purpose and need, and with mitigation
(wetlands and historic) being environmentally acceptable.
This attempt to reach a resolution was unsuccessful as documentd
by the Board of Regents October 12, 1999 press release. Therefore
at this time the project sponsors, Douglas County, Kansas
Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration
select the “No Build” as the preferred alternative
for this project.” p. 7-5
The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club
points out this language in the FHWA’s SEIS because
we see very little difference between the impacts of KDOT”s
preferred 32nd Street route and the 31st route examined in
the FHWA’s SEIS. In fact, the proposed 31st alignment
examined in FHWA’s SEIS actually impacted fewer acres
of wetlands than the proposed 32nd Street B route advocated
Because of the negative spiritual, cultural, and educational
impacts to HINU, the negative impacts to the Haskell-Baker
Wetlands (despite proposed mitigation), the blatant violation
of the spirit and letter of the Presidential Directive on
Environmental Justice, the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club
therefore believes that a “No Build” conclusion
is the appropriate conclusion for the 32nd St B alternative.
The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club takes no position on
the proposed 42nd Street alternative because this alternative
route has not been thoroughly examined in the DEIS.
for Written Comments
Corps of Engineers will convene a public hearing on Sept.
12, 2002, at 6:30 p.m., at the Douglas County Fairgrounds,
Building 21. The
hearing will provide interested parties with an opportunity
to comment on the DEIS. Comments may be provided verbally
or in written form.
The formal hearing will convene promptly
at 6:30. Study personnel will be available from 5:30 until
6:30 to answer questions and discuss issues on a one-on-one
basis. Col. Donald Curtis, District Engineer of the Corps's
Kansas City District, will preside at the hearing.
Individuals wanting to speak will be
allotted three and five minutes, depending on the number of
individuals who wish to speak. This
hearing is intended to allow individuals and organizations
the opportunity to comment on the DEIS. There will be no Q&A
during the hearing.
Be there early to sign up to speak and
help with our outdoor demonstration of opposition.
Whether you plan to sign up to speak or not, it’s
important to submit your comments in writing. Here are some
tips and suggested arguments that came out of our strategy
session. Words of significance to the Corps of Army Engineers
(who will make the final decision) are capitalized.
- Write about what is important to
you. You don’t have to make your comments long, but
do try to offer some substantial reasons for your opinion.
- To fill wetlands and build their
road, the applicant (KDOT) must show that no PRACTICABLE
ALTERNATIVE exists that meets the needs of their project.
The Army Corps of Engineers (CORPS) has looked at the alternatives
and prefers to build the road south of the river (42nd St.)
and avoid the wetlands, so, in essence, this is a difference
of opinion between two government agencies, with the public
comments likely to influence the final decision.
- You might want to argue that the
HARM TO HASKELL AND ITS STUDENTS IS MUCH GREATER THAN ANY
BENEFIT IN CONVENIENCE THE ROAD OFFERS. Haskell is a nationally
recognized historic site and the slt would harm its historic
aspects. Haskell students have traditionally used all of
the wetlands areas for spiritual practices. Many of these
activities take place after dark and demand privacy and
relative quiet. The noise and lights of eight lanes of traffic
would seriously harm the students’ rights to practice
- The PUBLIC INTERESTS are harmed
more than helped if the 32nd St. alignment is selected.
Many events that serve the public interests take place in
the area that would be destroyed and filled—tagging
Monarch butterflies, canoeing in the canals, public demonstrations,
bird watching, and tours for thousands of schoolchildren.
It will be at least 25 years before the mitigation site
(now a cornfield) will even begin to resemble a wetlands
and offer all of the genuine educational opportunities the
current site offers. This issue has divided the community
for over 12 years and it is time for a sensible conclusion
to the controversy. A 32nd St. decision is likely to bring
in attorneys from the national Sierra Club and/or Audubon
Society. If bulldozers try to begin work in the wetlands,
many people will stand in its way. . (A route south of the
river would require 2 additional minutes of driving time
and serve businesses and industry as well as any route through
- It is MORALLY UNCONSCIONABLE to
construct a huge, noisy, traffic corridor, planned for eight
lanes of traffic, between Haskell University and its historic
wetlands. This is clearly an issue of ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.
When the western leg was designed, a small church (100 members)
requested that the road be moved several hundred feet to
the west to accommodate the church’s parking lot.
KDOT moved the road. But for thousands of students and alumni,
representing over 100 tribes of Native Americans at Haskell,
KDOT remains obstinate in its determination to violate Haskell’s
wishes. Selecting this route is likely to bring on more
litigation and more negative national attention for Lawrence
and the state of Kansas.
- Think about other options for long-term
transportation needs. Why always more roads?
Ask the Corps to respond to your comments.
What are the plans for the mitigation site? Why are those
details left for “after the decision”? How many
acres will be “recreated wetlands”? How many acres
(Please add other arguments or tips
that are clear and concise—appropriate for written responses
to the Draft Environmental Impact statement or the request
to fill wetlands—404 permit.)
A Simple Message to Send By September 30
Dear Kansas Chapter Sierra
For the Haskell Baker Wetlands, your
voice MUST now be heard. Unless our many voices are loud and
clear, these priceless treasures will be lost forever. A highway
is proposed which will go through the heart of the Haskell
Baker Wetlands, a place sacred to the Indian tribes that has
also been enjoyed by many Sierrans for its nature and beauty.
We are asking you to do a simple, but
extremely important task...
Cut, paste, and send the below message
TODAY so it is received by the September 30, the deadline
for receipt of comments. Include your signature, name, and
Dear Robert Smith, Corps of Engineers,
I strongly oppose KDOT’s request
for a 404 permit to fill the Baker wetlands to accommodate
their preferred 32nd Street alignment B of the project known
as the South Lawrence Trafficway.
I find that your applicant (KDOT) has
not submitted final plans for this project to your office.
Permitting would be premature, potentially allowing harmful
human and environmental impact. I find the Draft Environmental
Impact statement lacking in honesty and integrity and to be
misleading and unsubstantiated at best. Most alarming to me
in the DEIS (Vol.I Ch.4 p.52) is your determination that this
proposed 32nd Street highway project will not have a disproportionately
high and adverse effect on the human spiritual health of the
minority peoples found at nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.
The proximity of HINU’s medicine wheel renders it most
vulnerable to the noise and pollution of the SLT on 32nd Street.
Issuance of a 404 permit for such a massive highway project
with such proximity to this site of spiritual intention flies
in the face of environmental justice. Such disregard for the
Presidential Executive order 12898 is unconscionable.
It is time that your office uphold the
Clean Water Act, stop the needless loss of wetlands and consider
protecting the rights of all people.
Mr. Robert Smith
U.S. Army District, K.C.
700 Federal Building
601 East 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
comments from Karl Birns, faculty of the Environmental Studies
Program at the University of Kansas
Dear Mr. Smith:
Comments to the US Army, Corps of Engineers
regarding the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT) draft EIS
I am on the faculty of the Environmental
Studies Program at the University of Kansas. Previous to my
retirement last year from the Kansas Department of Health
and Environment, I served for 8 years as chief of the states
Mobile Sources (Vehicle) Emissions Program. In that capacity
I’ve used and became familiar with the EPA Mobile model,
transportation models and the Urban Airshed Model. I’ve
represented the state on the Kansas City MARC Air Quality
Forum, and I’m currently the Kansas co-chair of the
Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Program, sponsored by the
US DOE. I am also a resident of rural Douglas County, living
one mile north of Lone Star Lake.
I have examined the Air Quality section
of the draft EIS and found it grossly deficient. The following
are my observations comments, and recommendations:
- There was no Air Quality analysis
presented. This was based on comments from KDHE that a general
conformity analysis was not required. While General conformity
is not an issue, future transportation conformity may be.
This project may have significant implications on Kansas
City air quality.
- The construction of the SLT
will act as an attractor, resulting in increased traffic
in the K-10 corridor, increased local Lawrence traffic,
and secondary effects, including new construction of commercial
strips and housing along and in conjunction with the expansion
of the K-10 corridor and interconnections with US-59 and
the Kansas Turnpike.
- The construction of the SLT
is only one link in a network that KDOT is considering,
as described in the Kaw Connects Study and accompanying
- A recent study prepared by
the state of Texas and other NAFTA corridor states (including
Kansas) indicate that I-35 will become a major carrier of
North American truck traffic. Portions of I-35, between
Kansas City and Ottawa are expected to need 14 lanes to
handle the increased traffic demand. Since this kind of
expansion is unlikely, K-10/ US-59 would become a relief
route. This would result in substantially more truck traffic
than addressed in the EIS.
- KDOT has proposed an expressway
along the US-40 corridor to link with the I-70 by-pass,
south Topeka turnpike interchange. This would create a toll
free connection from Topeka to Kansas City parallel to the
current Turnpike roadway. This would also attract increased
car and truck traffic to the SLT to avoid tolls. This is
not addressed in the SLT in any regard, and more specifically
in terms of air quality impacts.
- Kansas City is an EPA air
quality maintenance region. Recent exceedances may require
EPA to re-designate the city as a non-attainment area.
- The Douglas County/Lawrence
Health Department has undertaken a project (in cooperation
with KU and KDHE) to monitor county air quality. Preliminary
indications are that ozone levels in Douglas county track
those of Kansas City. This is to be expected since Lawrence
is up-wind of KC. Douglas County air quality contributes
to pollution loads in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Therefore, any increased emissions in Douglas County will
affect the Kansas City area directly.
- EPA has recently proposed
that additional counties (including Douglas) be added to
the Kansas City air quality maintenance area. This was proposed
because these counties are contributors to metro emissions
loading. This has been put in abeyance for the time being
at the request of the governors’ office. If the area
is forced back into non-attainment, this action may be reassessed.
If so, then Douglas County and Lawrence would be subject
to transportation conformity analysis.
- The states of Kansas and Missouri
are currently completing an Urban Airshed Model for the
Kansas City area and surrounding regions. Douglas County
is part of the “fine grid” domain. The potential
impact from mobile source emissions on air quality arising
from the SLT and other regional highway construction could
be discerned from this available model. These models could
look at the impact from all proposed projects, taken together
as a network, on pollution loads and air quality. This would
be much better as an indicator of future air quality than
the piecemeal process KDOT has followed. Road segments are
not operated in a vacuum. Network analysis is necessary.
For example, the recent KDOT EIS for the US-59 project did
look at air quality, but addressed the wrong pollutant.
The pollutants of concern for this area are hydrocarbons
and NOx, ozone precursors.
the following actions:
- An air quality analysis should
be preformed, including modeling that looks at ozone precursors.
- This model should address
emissions from traffic on the SLT, other connected highways
and future expected emissions resulting from regional growth
arising from the SLT, associated regional projects and the
- This analysis should address
not only impacts on Douglas County, but also impacts on
the Kansas City metropolitan region.
Back to Top
comments from Elaine Giessel, Kanza Group Conservation Chair
Dear Mr. Smith,
The Kanza Group is opposed
to any alignment of the proposed K-10 construction that has
the potential to destroy the integrity of the Haskell/Baker
Wetlands and/or diminish the cultural and educational values
held by the Native American Community at Haskell Indian Nations
Please accept the following
comments from the Kanza Group of the Kansas Chapter of the
Sierra Club on the DEIS concerning the proposed KDOT K-10
extension project in Douglas County. Hard copy of this letter
will be mailed.
- The DEIS does not adequately address
the hydrology of the Haskell/Baker Wetlands.
Regulatory agencies nationwide utilize
wetland definitions that include three critical elements:
hydrology, hydrophytic vegetation and hydric soils. Each of
these characteristics is crucial to understanding and management
of a specific wetland. The DEIS states that:
- "One of the most important research
activities associated with the site has been a large-scale
rehydration and ground water monitoring program to demonstrate
that high quality wetlands can be recreated through careful
planning and management. (Sect. 3.5.1)"
- "The quality of these resources
varies depending upon such factors as water permanence,
presence or absence of in-flowing streams, surrounding vegetation,
and surrounding land use. (Sect. 3.11.1)"
Nonetheless, a word search of the DEIS
for the SLT indicates no occurrence of the word "hydrology."
There is no mention of comprehensive hydrology studies of
the Haskell/Baker Wetlands, including Chapter 3 -- Affected
Environments. There is no hydrologic evidence provided on
water sources or losses within the wetland system, the balance
of which may be severely impacted by project construction
and will certainly be critical in determining the success
of any future mitigation efforts. Without such studies, any
conclusions reached regarding the environmental impacts of
the proposed highway project are without scientific merit.
Any proposals to mitigate damages and restore wetland habitat
are, likewise, without merit.
- The difficulties in restoring, constructing,
and otherwise mitigating wetlands damaged by dredge and
fill operations are widely recognized.
For that reason, the Corps is charged
with a 3-step priority list for protecting existing wetlands:
- Avoid building in wetlands
- Minimize damage to wetlands
- Mitigate damage to wetlands
Clearly, there are alternatives that
would avoid damage to the Haskell/Baker Wetlands, including
the 42nd Street route south of the Wakarusa River and the
"No Action" option. Without hydrologic studies,
the success of mitigation efforts is highly questionable.
Also, the DEIS indicates that mitigation of wetland losses
would include restoration of tall grass prairie areas and
preservation of existing wetlands. These do not constitute
valid mitigation for wetland losses.
- The DEIS minimizes the impact on
the current and future Native American community at HINU.
The Kanza Group considers
the KDOT project and the proposed alignments of K-10 through
the Haskell/Baker Wetlands an example of a classic “Environmental
Justice” case. Clearly, the minority population of Native
Americans living on campus will bear a disproportionate share
of the negative environmental consequences and cultural impacts
of this project, while accruing little or no socio-economic
benefit. While specific environmental impacts on the HINU
campus are addressed, the impacts on the cultural and educational
values of the wetlands are not. The concerns noted below were
not addressed in the Environmental Justice section of the
DEIS (Sect. 4.25).
Haskell considers its south
campus and the wetlands complex the most valuable instructional
facility on and off of the campus, and believe it is important
to protect it for future generations (Sect. 3.5.2). The HINU
community also considers the Haskell/Baker Wetlands a place
of spiritual meditation and for performance of sacred and
ritual activities. As noted in the DEIS, it is the position
of many Haskell students and others that Haskell/Baker Wetlands
has been “consecrated” by the burial of former
Haskell boarding school’s students in unmarked graves
(Sect. 3.6.3). Concerns regarding the sacred character of
the wetlands and the importance of the land in the history
of Haskell were apparently important issues for many individuals
involved in the public involvement process: "Those who
accepted the wetlands as being an important part of the Haskell
School and Native American experience in Lawrence were adamant
in their opposition to any alignment that impacted this land.
While environmental and historical/cultural issues were most
prominent in the Haskell School (sic) and Native American
communities, a desire to preserve the integrity of the community’s
cultural property, if not its physical property, was expressed
as well (Sect. 5.2.3)."
Thank you for accepting
Kanza Group of the Sierra Club, Conservation Committee Chair
Place is Soaked in Indian History
A plea for environmental justice
By Mike Caron
Seventy-six years ago, in the fall of
1926, more tribes met in Lawrence, Kansas than had ever come
together in one location in all the many centuries of American
Indian history. Most of these visitors gathered in temporary
camps, organized largely by tribe, all through the Haskell
wetlands and “farm”. It was an extraordinary time
for remembering. At the time many called it the first national
pow-wow. At least 75 tribes and thousands of Indians came
to celebrate and dedicate a new stadium. At last, thanks to
the generosity of Indians themselves, there would be a home
field for Haskell’s nationally recognized football program.
The Indians had gone undefeated the previous year despite
having to play the entire season without the advantage of
a home crowd. Alumni sat around campfires, sparks rising toward
the starry night sky. They told their children about how those
crazy white men in charge of the boarding school had made
the boys scrape up mother earth for the local drainage contractors.
The exposed surface was tiled like some gigantic inverted
roof. They joked that these white guys were rebuilding the
world upside down. The boarding school educators said they
wanted the water carried off this land faster so they could
create an outdoor classroom. Their idea was to teach the Indians
how progressive farming techniques could make “worthless
Of “Savages” &
Yet there was much more underlying
these efforts to eliminate the wetlands. To school administrators
this place was always extremely troubling. It was where the
runaways usually headed. They ran toward the Wakarusa, almost
never toward town. The wetland was also the most obvious place
where traces of Indianness continued to smolder despite every
effort to extinguish them. The disciplinarians and dorm matrons
understood that when their young charges wanted to conceal
anything from them the odds were great that it took place
well south of the campus and after lights out. In the mindset
of Haskell’s early leaders there was a palpable link
between this “swampland” and the “savages”
they were attempting to transform. The stereotype of wild
Indians paralleled white imaginings about untamed swamps in
the same era. Both needed to be forced into submission. These
two entities were one and the same in the mindsets of most
bureaucrats in charge of Haskell Institute in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. Both were useless and threatening
unless drained and transformed into something thoroughly familiar
and valued in the eyes of the dominant society.
The elders camped for the stadium dedication
recalled how boys caught breaking school rules, like speaking
their native language, or praying over the rising smoke of
sweet grass, were sometimes sent out for extra duty digging
ditches in these wetlands. In 1926 there were still many students
currently enrolled at Haskell who had themselves been assigned
to these punishment details. Jim Thorpe, who was a young turn-of-the-century
Haskell student years before he attended Carlisle, had spent
more time than most on similar punishment details. The nation’s
greatest living athlete was among the many runaway Haskellites
who returned that fall to tell their stories to a new generation
of Indians. He told friends how much he had hated that farm.
Yet he spent many a night locked in the school’s stone
jail at the south end of the campus after being caught in
the less molested corners of this wetland.
Haskell was both the biggest and the most notorious of the
federal government’s off reservation boarding schools.
The famous Merriam Report, concluded in 1926, but published
only after much foot-dragging and watering down two years
later, was especially critical of Haskell for its neglect
and abuse of Indian children. Malnourished ten year olds were
required to work half days in laundries, kitchens and dairy
operations that used antiquated condemned equipment. Losing
an arm was not uncommon. Earlier reports chastised school
officials for the many student deaths. Indians understood
that the farm operation in the wetland was modeled on prison
farms of the time. Free labor, essentially penal slave labor
of their children, was used to grow food for the school, ostensibly
to make the institution “self sufficient” while
teaching the kids useful stills. This obscene rationalization
would have been bad enough, but it didn’t begin to reflect
the true nature of these crimes. Despite a large dairy operation,
government investigators found milk was sold locally while
the children at Haskell often went without. Diet was as bad
as many penal institutions of that notorious era. Ironically,
in the early days Haskell students were even referred to officially
as “inmates”. Escapes, the “run-away”
problem, was epidemic. In some years several missing children
per month was the norm. Some died of exposure while hiding
in the wetlands or drowned attempting to cross the Wakarusa.
Boys and girls were known to have hanged themselves, usually
well away from the dorms, as the last resort to end the terror
and shame of sexual abuse. Many were buried in secret locations
by friends who did not want the authorities to place them
in the “Christian” cemetery in the shadow of the
dorms. Some said the authorities looked the other way because
that official burial ground was already embarrassingly full.
Better to report these children as “runaways”
than take responsibility for still more deaths. Those who
claim today that there are no Indian graves in the wetland
know nothing of these sad realities, and less than nothing
about the various traditional native burial practices.
Within less than a decade after the
great 1926 gathering and the completion of the Merriam Report,
both the academic programs and the farm project would be openly
declared failures. In the 1930s BIA officials, under John
Collier’s new administration, gave up on the Haskell
farm. BIA efforts to drain all the Indian out of Haskell students
did not end, but that focus of Indian education was substantially
curtailed. Agricultural equipment was moved to Chilocco Indian
Boarding School in Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, even by 1926 much damage had already been inflicted
on this very special wetland. It had been the primary place
of refuge for those who had most strongly resisted the federal
government’s efforts to wipe out all that was Indian
in them. The wetland was already a memory to some, but it
became a vivid vision for many who were there for the first
time when their parents brought them along to the stadium
dedication. For three days and nights the old storytellers
officiated at buffalo feasts, traditional dances and other
acts declaring loudly to the world that Indians had not vanished
as the authorities had confidently predicted. There, night
after night, Cherokee, Blackfeet, Hopi, Aleut, Penobscot,
and dozens upon dozens of others from every corner of Indian
Country danced with more joy than most had felt in decades.
They were gathered together in those wetlands demonstrating
to every soul in earshot that their native cultures had not
been wiped out. They pounded their presence into that hallowed
earth with an enthusiasm that still echoes to this day.
Grandmothers recalled their parents
camping down on the banks of the Wakarusa, sometimes for many
weeks. They were unable to leave the children our government
had forced them to surrender. Sometimes the Indian agent would
withhold rations or annuity payments from destitute families,
or an entire tribe, until their quota of kids for the boarding
schools was fulfilled. Other Haskell alumni remembered the
wetland plants their mothers had shown them how to gather
and use. Often their final lesson in native knowledge took
place in these wetlands. When they or their classmates became
sick or injured this “medicine cabinet” was their
main source of spiritual and physical healing. For many of
the children, some as young as five or ten years old, this
wetland beside the Wakarusa was where they said goodbye to
loved ones they would not see for many years. Kiowa and Comanche
and others who were among the first to come to the new Indian
school pulled their wagonloads of children down beside the
Wakarusa to camp. They had to wait for Haskell’s doors
to open in 1884 because local contractors were way behind
schedule in finishing the dorms. Many of the early graves
in the Haskell Cemetery were due to the incomplete construction,
the resultant drafts, and dampness. The heating was completely
inadequate for years.
To the Osage, who were major contributors to the stadium fund,
and to Kaw and Pawnee who were all indigenous to this area
for centuries before the school was founded, the once vast
Wakarusa wetlands was a sacred gathering place for white egret
feathers and white milkweed tassels, which they traded widely.
These items were used in native religious rituals from Arakara
Villages on the Upper Missouri to the Pueblo Villages of the
Southwest. The Wakarusa was named for this ceremonial milkweed,
which was found in great abundance near its banks. Migrating
Monarch butterflies, who love milkweed and imbibe of its magical
protections, which renders them poisonous to most predators,
have always gathered in superabundance in this wetland. To
many native cultures butterflies represent the souls of the
dead, especially children. That this place is filled with
the thrilled voices of school children each fall, coming from
all over Lawrence to tag Monarchs on their way to Mexico,
is a special delight to those who know of butterfly spirits
and milkweed power. The Kaw say that the Wakarusa River’s
direct eastward course “like an arrow pointing toward
the sun”, differs from all the other waterways in the
region, which tend to flow from north west to southeast. This
difference was seen as the creator’s way of indicating
to the people that special power was to be found in this place.
In the fall of 1926, with the fields full of butterflies and
Indians of all sizes and description there was an overwhelming
sense of closeness with those who had died. 1926 was also
the 50th anniversary of Custer’s great defeat at the
Little Big Horn. Nobody in Indian Country was unaware of the
irony and opportunity of the occasion. Just about every Indian
veteran of that battle who was still able to travel made his
way to Haskell for this incredible reunion. Old Crow and Cheyenne
warriors who had been on opposite sides in the military campaigns
of the 1860s and 70s met and embraced on this common ground.
Union veterans among the Delaware and Shawnee shared buffalo
meat with Chickasaw and Creek who had fought for the Confederacy.
This event was much more than a stadium dedication. It became
many things to the participants, but most of all it was seen
as a celebration of survival, a moral victory over the most
intensive effort at systematic cultural genocide ever attempted
in history. Despite the best efforts of local journalists
and school officials to frame the activities as a tourist
attraction featuring “progress” in Indian Country,
the true nature of those celebrations was obvious to everyone
in attendance. The downtown parade, sponsored by the Lawrence
Chamber of Commerce, had ham handed “before” and
“after” floats that fooled no one except themselves.
Indians had successfully resisted forced acculturation; and
having survived the government’s best efforts at cultural
extermination, they had no intention of vanishing into the
vast melting pot.
Indian scholars and intellectual leaders are serious when
they say this wetland is crucial to Haskell’s ability
to fulfill its dreams of becoming a leading center of Native
American learning. Ecology and natural history are central
to the native based educational future that teachers like
Gregory Cajete, Vine Deloria and Dan Wildcat envision for
Haskell and similar institutions. The wetland is the key to
the future of Haskell Indian Nations University. It is the
single most valuable asset their faculty has immediate access
to for the kinds of native science based academic programs
they have envisioned. With partnerships involving Kansas University
and Baker this wetland could be home to one of the leading
wetland research programs in the nation.
Today wetlands are finally recognized
as nature’s primary water purifiers, mother earth’s
kidneys. Far from being useless swamps they are by far our
most economical passive water storage and flood control systems.
Destroying them, filling them in for quick-profit developments
or paving them over to save a few minutes of commuting time,
is unwise and ultimately very expensive. The Corps of Engineers
has grown fat building the costly “dialysis” systems,
the endless dams and flood control projects, needed to make
up for the wetlands they have permitted to be destroyed.
Soul of Haskell
What many folks in Lawrence fail to understand is the crucial
role these wetlands can and do have in defining Haskell’s
place in the minds of young Native Americans. If Haskell Indian
Nations University is to fulfill its enormous potential to
become the center of the American Indian renaissance, it will
have to incorporate its past in ways that Native American
students will find healing and positive. What has already
occurred in that most important of cultural battlefields,
this Gettysburg of the boarding school wars, is an incredibly
powerful symbol of restoration and renewal. Today the wetlands
is a place where Haskell students can go to find peace and
solitude, to contemplate what happened there, and to feel
at one with the healing that is the essence of that landscape.
This wetland protected and preserved the hopes of many generations
of Indians who resisted a powerful acculturation crusade waged
against them. It soaked up the poisons of those terrible times
and transformed them into nutrients for future growth.
The wetland gave temporary sanctuary
to generations of Indian youth that desperately needed it.
This ground has been sanctified with recurring floods of tears
from a dozen decades of suffering, but it has also received
tears of joy. There were many good memories, too; wonderful
times and unforgettable new friends. There were skating parties
down on the frozen canals and annual “rabbit hunts”
that gave everyone an excuse to roam the wetlands relatively
unsupervised. In many ways the wetlands is the soul of Haskell.
The true spirit of this school resides in its sense of resistance
and rebirth. The wetland is an emblem honoring that history
of struggle against the prevailing ignorance that sees value
only in transforming people and things into their own image
of progress. For many Indians the wetland’s preservation
and resurrection parallels that of the institution itself.
Note on the South Lawrence Trafficway
History is an important part of any education. To know Haskell’s
past and to understand how Indian leaders envision its futures
is to appreciate just how evil it would be to ram the South
Lawrence Trafficway through these wetlands. I hope that people
in my community will realize before it is too late that putting
eight or ten lanes of asphalt through this history soaked
place is as outrageous as building a freeway through the site
of the World Trade Center.
Mr. Robert J. Smith, Special Projects
Regulatory Branch, Room 706
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District
601 East 12th Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64106
Subject: Comments by the Kansas Chapter
- Sierra Club on The Final Environmental Impact Statement
and Section 404 Permit Application for K-10 Highway (South
Dear Mr. Smith:
The Kansas Chapter-Sierra Club has reviewed
the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the South Lawrence
Trafficway and section 404 permit (dated December 2002) prepared
by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is our position that
there are still many issues that were not properly addressed
in the FEIS, and we continue to have numerous concerns which
we have listed below. The 32nd Street alignment is unacceptable
because of the negative spiritual, cultural, and educational
impacts to HINU, the negative impacts to the Haskell-Baker
Wetlands (despite proposed mitigation), and the violation
of the spirit and letter of the Presidential Directive on
and practicable alternatives exist to the environmentally
destructive 32nd Street alternative. Severe environmental
damage will occur to the Haskell-Baker wetlands and surrounding
areas by the building of the SLT on the 32nd Street alignment.
A variety of other alternatives are available which are
practicable and which meet the purpose and need of this
project with much less damage.
EIS fails to properly consider combinations of alternatives,
||enhanced public transit (local
bus and commuter rail from Kansas City to Topeka),
|| increased reliance on bus
service in Lawrence plus eastern or southern bypasses.
||· an expanded Kansas
Turnpike (at no cost to KDOT, See Lawrence Journal
World article on planned I-70 expansion, 12/24/02).
||sequenced development of alternatives
such as southern bypass tie-in to expanded US 59 freeway.
||improvements to 23rd Street
and 31st Street for local traffic plus improved signage
for through traffic around Lawrence using existing
||an Eastern bypass similar to
K-4 Highway in Topeka plus new interchanges on I-70.
||the cut and cover tunnel.
road alternatives were dismissed too quickly. The
eastern bypass may need to be more fully considered in light
of recent announcements of proposed mixed use development
at the former Sunflower Ammunition Plant site, expanded
availability of rural water in the area south and east of
Lawrence from Douglas County RWD #4 and Johnson County RWD
# 6 ( See Lawrence Journal World, January 15, 2003), and
recent efforts to boost industrial development in Eudora
negative effects on proposed Haskell Historic District.
The KCD admits that the 32nd Street alignment will adversely
affect the proposed Historic District.(EIS at 2-32) This
effect will be severe in that a part of the historic Haskell
Farm will be separated from the remainder of the district
by the proposed, formidable, cement noise walls. Such an
outcome is inconsistent with current discussions in Lawrence
to establish tourist destinations focused on the history
of the area and establishing a National Heritage Area, including
the Haskell Historic District. (See Lawrence Journal World.
negative impacts on Haskell-Baker wetlands, Prairie Park
Nature Center and wildlife in the area. While KCD
admits that the impact on wetlands will be nine times as
large with the 32nd Street route compared to the 42nd Street
route, this is minimized in the EIS. In addition, the noise
mitigation walls will have severe impact on wildlife attempting
to move from the Wakarusa River area to the Mary’s
Lake/Prairie Park area and will likely block migration routes,
reduce breeding, and cause increased animal deaths from
car conflicts on adjacent roads.
cost differential between 32nd Street and 43rd Street alternatives
has been overstated. In the EIS at 2-32, Table 2-18,
the primary cost difference between the two options is in
increased mitigation costs for 32nd Street, and increased
bridge costs for 42nd Street. These figures are suspect
and appear to understate the actual cost of building the
32nd Street Route while overstating the cost of 42nd Street.
impacts on Haskell and the Haskell-Baker wetlands are grossly
understated in the EIS. One of the most significant
oversights and errors in the EIS is the conclusion that
there will be more noise and light impact on the HINU campus
and on the Haskell-Baker Wetlands from 42nd Street alignment
than from 32nd Street B alignment. The traffic will likely
increase on both Haskell and Louisiana Streets when the
SLT is completed and their relocation with 32nd Street mitigation
might produce slightly lower noise impacts in the wetlands
at the expense of Mary’s Lake and Prairie Park as
well as adjacent neighborhoods. However, there is no reason
to think that a four lane “local street” with
a higher speed limit than present 31st street, a street
which is located outside the sound walls and only a few
hundred feet from existing 31st Street, will not generate
more noise for users of the sweat lodges and the Medicine
Wheel. The KDOT noise study notwithstanding, Haskell will
be more, not less, affected by a 32nd Street alignment,
both in the short run, as KCD concedes and in the long run
mitigation proposal for 32nd Street cannot and will not
replace the lost portions of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.
Unfortunately for the authors of the EIS, the uniqueness
of the Haskell-Baker wetlands is well known to members of
the Lawrence community, especially those connected with
Haskell. While no one disputes the history of the area,
including the years of farming, etc., this is not just another
wetland to be replaced with a certain number of acres of
land of similar soil. This is a wetland with a special history
for Lawrence, for Haskell and for Native people throughout
the United States. There is no evidence that this area,
sacred to many, will be adequately mitigated by the creation
of new wetlands and relocation of two streets. In addition,
there is no reason to assume that the good fortune that
has produced reinvigorated wetlands at the Haskell-Baker
location could be repeated with success in the proposed
This proposal also ignores and contradicts the opinions
of experts in wetlands mitigation, including the comments
from the Kansas Biological Survey. Those comments include
reminders of the “Wetlands Mitigation Effectiveness”
document of KDOT (Kindscher, Mehaffey, Fraser and Pogge,
1997) which advises that wetlands impacts should be avoided
where possible. Here avoidance is entirely possible, but
KCD has ignored that option.
has improperly assessed land use patterns and future development
south of the Wakarusa River to justify the choice of 32nd
Street. KCD improperly ignored several recent developments
in land use planning and patterns in land use near the project
site, and made conclusions based on 1995 planning documents.
The conclusions are now outdated, even if the exhibits are
included. A proper focus on the new developments indicates
that it is the 42nd Street alignment which better meshes
with land use planning. Comments from Douglas County Commissioner
Charles Jones highlighted many of these issues in the DEIS
but the FEIS repeats the same mistakes. Commissioner Jones
relied upon Transportation 2025, the successor document
to Transportation 2020 which KCD relied upon in the EIS.
The newer document discusses the expansion of the Metropolitan
Planning Area Boundary to include all of Douglas County,
in part due to anticipated growth to the south and east
of Lawrence. This is also consistent with proposed revisions
to the City Water and Wastewater Master Plan which now envisions
infrastructure expansion and development south of the Wakarusa
River (included in the EIS at Ex. II-38). He concluded that
“The 42nd Street alignment is consistent with local
land use plans and is well timed to support development
south of the Wakarusa.”
The same points were made in the minority report to the
Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission (10/91) which
was also ignored in the EIS. That reported noted that Horizon
2020 called for the “preservation of areas characterized
by a number of overlapping environmental and natural features,
such as wetlands, hydric soils....” such as the Baker
Wetlands. In addition, the report focused on wastewater
treatment plants and their placement as being the primary
determinant of growth, and discussions underway to locate
an additional wastewater treatment facility on the Wakarusa
due to possible changes in technology. The committee also
noted in conclusion that “Substantial evidence exists
that development will shift south of the Wakarusa River
within the next few decades. We should plan for this growth
and make public spending decisions that are consistent with
this expectation.... In conjunction with the potential savings
achieved in wastewater treatment [from a plant located south
of Lawrence], a 42nd Street alignment will provide extensive
roadway infrastructure that would have to be duplicated
as Lawrence develops to the south."
In other words, Lawrence is developing south regardless
of the SLT alignment. The road should be built to reflect
that growth. A 32nd Street alignment will only mean that
a new and improved bypass will be necessary about the time
32nd Street is completed, since urban growth will have already
moved in a way that made 32nd Street obsolete at the price
of sacred wetlands.
has grossly underestimated the importance of the Haskell-Baker
wetlands to Native Americans. It has been and continues
to be used for important religious, spiritual and cultural
purposes and should be preserved intact to honor those traditions
and comply with applicable law. KCD has correctly
pointed out that numerous comments from Native and non-Native
people alike have focused on the history and tradition of
the Haskell-Baker Wetlands, and why they should be preserved
as a National Historic District with the rest of the campus,
not turned into another asphalt monument to racial insensitivity
and cultural destruction. Haskell requested the 31st Street
be removed if the alternative was reduced impact on the
campus and the wetlands. Having seen the plan for 32nd Street
alignment and a hugely expanded, albeit relocated, local
31st Street, Haskell opposes the 32nd Street alternative.
When the HINU president indicates that 32nd Street alignment
would be disruptive of Haskell activities it is disingenuous
to conclude that a “more serene environment on the
campus will be produced (EIS at 2-39). The noise walls (even
if tinted) will make it more difficult for Haskell students
and others to use the wetlands for educational purposes,
will disrupt plant and animal life there, will make it more
difficult for Native people and others to continue to use
the wetlands for ceremonial uses and will reduce the possibility
of using the wetlands for solitude and reflection. The proposed
visitor center will undercut the recently opened Haskell
Cultural Center as well.
project, if built on 32nd Street, will disproportionately
impact Native Americans in violation of Executive Order
12898 on Environmental Justice. The 32nd Street alignment
runs through land sacred to Native Americans and used by
them for 100 years. The impact is huge and consultation
with tribes and individuals consistently shows concern about
this issue. KCD admits these concerns have been raised but
concludes that there will be no disproportionate impact.
Yet it is the Haskell community which will be divided from
a portion of its historic land, the Haskell Farm, and divided
from the wetlands which were so important to young people
at Haskell as a place of escape. The Native people who use
the Medicine Wheel and the sweat lodges will be subjected
to increased noise from the new 31st Street as well as noise
from trucks on the SLT. This is the group who will be affected.
The 32nd Street route is an environmental injustice, further
dividing the historic Haskell campus and further dividing
Native people from the rest of Lawrence.
EIS fails to consider serious air quality deterioration
aspects of the SLT, particularly if it is located on 32nd
Street. There is no serious air quality analysis
in the EIS. This project may have significant implications
on Kansas City air quality, so the EIS should consider this
as well as effects on Douglas County. A recent study prepared
by the state of Texas and other NAFTA corridor states (including
Kansas) indicate that I?35 will become a major carrier of
truck traffic. Portions of I?35, between Kansas City and
Ottawa are expected to need 14 lanes to handle the increased
traffic demand. Since this kind of expansion is unlikely,
K?10/ US?59 would become a relief route. This would result
in substantially more truck traffic than addressed in the
Kansas City is an EPA air quality maintenance
region. Recent exceedances may require EPA to re?designate
the city as a non?attainment area. The Douglas County/Lawrence
Health Department has undertaken a project (in cooperation
with KU and KDHE) to monitor county air quality. Preliminary
indications are that ozone levels in Douglas county track
those of Kansas City. This is to be expected since Lawrence
is up?wind of KC. Douglas County air quality contributes to
pollution loads in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Therefore,
any increased emissions in Douglas County will affect the
Kansas City area directly.
EPA has recently proposed that additional
counties (including Douglas) be added to the Kansas City air
quality maintenance area. The states of Kansas and Missouri
are currently completing an Urban Airshed Model for the Kansas
City area and surrounding regions. Douglas County is part
of the "fine grid" domain. The potential impact
from mobile source emissions on air quality arising from the
SLT and other regional highway construction could be discerned
from this available model. These models could look at the
impact from all proposed projects, taken together as a network,
on pollution loads and air quality. This would be much better
as an indicator of future air quality than the piecemeal process
KDOT has followed.
J. Scott Smith, Chair
cc: Carey Maynard-Moody, SLT
Sierra Club Kansas Chapter
Bruce Plenk, J.D., Chair
Sierra Club Wakarusa Group
Charles Benjamin, J.D.
Sierra Club Kansas Chapter
Barclay Rogers, Associate Attorney
Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
Back to Top
By Michael Caron
Naturalist Terry Tempest Williams believes
the SLT travesty closely resembles Legacy Parkway in Utah.
Governor Mike Leavitt wants that parkway built through Great
Salt Lake wetlands. Williams loves the wetland like a member
of her own family. Road-builders and developers dismiss such
feelings as mere sentimentality. In Refuge (1991) Williams
describes how she felt as both her mother and her beloved
wetland faced death. Anyone doubting Native American claims
that Haskell-Baker Wetland is a part of their family might
comprehend this cultural gulf better after reading Refuge.
UDOT would replace wetlands paved for
Legacy Parkway with lots of land and a new nature preserve.
Dismissing skepticism from environmentalists, Governor Leavitt
declared the future wetland would be even better. Terry Tempest
Williams calls this “greenwashing”.
Former Kansas Governor Graves, the trucking
industry’s chief lobbyist, kept a low profile while
KDOT pressed for a trafficway that could enormously impact
how interstate haulers route their big rigs through this region.
Graves, a close Republican ally of then National Governor’s
Association chairman Leavitt, likely borrowed the notion to
“greenwash” the 32nd Street SLT route as good
for Mother Nature.
The Environmental Protection Agency
disputed Leavitt’s claim that there was no reasonable
route around the Great Salt Lake wetland. The 10th Court of
Appeals found that UDOT had not adequately evaluated alternatives.
Ironically, President Bush has now nominated Mike Leavitt
to head the Environmental Protection Agency!
The SLT and Legacy projects do differ
in several crucial ways. While both provide refuge to wildlife,
the Haskell-Baker Wetland was also a cultural refuge for Native
Americans who resisted our government’s misguided experiment
in using education for cultural extinction. Administrators
at Haskell Institute tried to wash all traces of Indianness
out of the children placed in their care. Brenda Child, David
Adam and other respected historians have written extensively
about the resistance that took place in these boarding schools.
There is strong oral tradition that students from many tribes
used the wetland as a refuge from the gaze of repressive school
authorities. For the first half century of Haskell Institute’s
existence federal authorities outlawed sweat lodges, ceremonial
dances, and all other expressions of native spirituality.
Suppression of native religion and other forms of cultural
expression continued at Haskell for years after this assault
on basic freedoms supposedly ended. Utah’s Legacy Parkway
does not threaten any historic site comparable to Haskell,
which played such a crucial role in the Indian boarding school
Finally, Haskell’s historic wetlands,
unlike those threatened in Utah, were drained for farming
in the early 20th century. This refuge was to be transformed
into an outdoor classroom. Indian children should learn how
a “civilized” culture tames wild useless swampland.
This ill-conceived effort to kill the wetland failed, just
as the government’s efforts to “kill the Indian
to save the man” did not succeed. That chapter of Haskell
history was whitewashed for too long. No amount of greenwashing
can hide the enormous environmental injustice of burying this
consecrated place under tons of asphalt. Native Americans
deserve better. So do our children’s children.
Mike Caron is a founding member of Save
the Wetlands, a community based group dedicated to keeping
more traffic and highways out of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.
He is the Programs Director at Douglas County Jail.
This page was last updated on
March 13, 2005
for more beautiful shots of this treasure from Kyle
for shots from Wally Emerson