Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2001

River work to begin next January

August 29, 2001

Work on levees along the north bank of the Kansas River near Eudora is scheduled to begin in January and span the next two winters.

And that's just fine with officials in Leavenworth and Douglas counties, who are struggling to find $1 million between them to finance their share of the $2 million project. Last week, county officials agreed Leavenworth County would pay $400,000, while Douglas County would pick up the remaining $600,000 of the two counties' share of the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has committed $1 million toward the work, which will include construction of four dikes along the north riverbank, west of the bridge that links the two counties.

Officials worry that if the dike system is not built, the river will cut a path north of the bridge, creating an oxbow and leaving a bridge to, essentially, nowhere.

The cost of the project, which has risen since initial estimates, caused concern among Leavenworth County commissioners, who recently approved a 9-mill increase in property taxes for next year. The 2001 and 2002 budgets included $150,000 each for the work.

"You hate to do this, but if you lose that bridge, you're probably talking $20 million," said Don Navinsky, Leavenworth County commission chairman.

The 2003 budget will include what remains of the county's share of the project.

The Corps of Engineers' timeline calls for the construction contract to be awarded in December and work to begin in January. Work would continue through the winter and resume in January 2003.

Completing the project in two phases suits both county and federal officials.

"The corps broached that subject with us," said Keith Browning, Douglas County engineer and public works director. "Both for constructability and for financing, it would be better to do over two years. It needs to be constructed in times of low flow."

The work should be completed by the time spring rains increase the river level.

"They really couldn't do it all in one winter," Browning said.

And stretching the project over two winters allows the counties additional time to secure financing. Although the project is estimated to cost $2 million, Browning said it's possible those costs could change.

"This isn't like building a bridge, where you know pretty much the types of materials you're going to need," he said. "Depending on what has happened to that bank since the plans were developed, there may be more or less work needed. That's the best estimate we have at this point. We may have a lot of rain this fall and do a lot of damage to that bank."

Navinsky said he had hoped Douglas County officials would agree to paying for 70 percent of the counties' costs because that county's assessed property valuation is more than two times greater than Leavenworth County's. Douglas County officials offered a 50-50 split, Navinsky said.

"It's a negotiation," he said. "We felt very good that we pleaded our case, and this is the best we can do."

Several years ago, the two counties participated in constructing dikes on the south side of the bridge, where the Kaw was eating away at the bank, putting the south bridge supports in peril.

"The river was threatening to do the same thing that Stranger Creek did at Linwood," Navinsky said.

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