Kansas River threatens access to Douglas County
It's budget time for Leavenworth County, and Shirley Davidson wants to ensure her voice is heard.
Davidson, as secretary of the Fall Leaf Drainage District in extreme southern Leavenworth County, is worried about erosion along the north bank of the Kansas River, west of County Road 1.
"It's going to cut off the north end of the bridge eventually, if it keeps on doing what it's doing," said Davidson, who farms just south of Kansas Highway 32. "It's an oxbow effect there."
The river is threatening to change course, cutting a new channel north of the bridge that connects Leavenworth and Douglas counties. That would mean the bridge would span an oxbow, and County Road 1 could be under water.
On Thursday, Davidson and other drainage district members will take their case to the Leavenworth County Commission. They're seeking the county's commitment for funds to help with an engineering study of the erosion problem and to correct the erosion.
If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the study and the abatement program, the Corps would pay for 65 percent of those costs. The remaining funding would come from Leavenworth and Douglas counties.
The counties' share of the engineering and design study is estimated at $25,000 to $30,000, according to Keith Browning, Douglas County public works director and county engineer. Construction costs are estimated at $1.3 million to $1.6 million.
If, for example, the construction costs came in at $1.5 million, the federal government would pick up about $975,000, with the remaining $750,000 being billed to the counties.
At issue is how much each county is willing to pay for the design and construction.
"We have budgeted in our capital improvement program enough funding to cover 50 percent of the engineering design costs," Browning said. "The federal funding for this project is not at all guaranteed. In fact, it doesn't look good right now."
But Browning believes proceeding with the study would be beneficial to the success of ultimately obtaining federal funds.
"We'd have a much better handle on what the construction costs would be, and the local governments would be sure that they have that much allocated," Browning said.
Leavenworth County Commission Don Navinsky agrees that the study should proceed.
"We did direct the public works director the other day to send a letter to the Corps of Engineers to tell them to go on out for final design plans," he said Tuesday.
However, the question is whether the counties equally split the costs of the study and construction or split the costs based on assessed property valuation. The latter choice would mean Douglas County would handle about 69 percent, while Leavenworth County would pay about 31 percent.
In a letter to Douglas County officials, Leavenworth County officials have suggested they prefer paying 31 percent. Negotiations are continuing, Navinsky said, adding that he's not sure when the matter would be resolved.
For now, Browning said, a federal political game is under way, in an effort to convince the Corps of Engineers to participate in the project.
"The Corps takes that decision to their district office, and in the initial submittal, the verdict was not to fund it," he said. "We're in the process of trying to get some help from our legislators to help the project along."
Although rehabilitation of the bridge across the river at County Road 1 was financed based on assessed property valuation of the two counties, Browning believes the costs of the current project should be shared equally.
"We feel the benefits will be every bit as much, if not more, to Leavenworth County as to Douglas County," he said.
Davidson and others in the drainage district are trying to drum up support for an equal split.
"We feel like that should be 50-50 also," she said.