Friends of the Kaw (FOK) serves the Kansas River, known locally as the Kaw. The Kaw is the largest prairie watershed in the world. The river originates at the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers and runs more than 170 miles to meet the Missouri in northeast Kansas. The Kaw provides drinking water for 800,000 people. Its main uses are industrial: irrigation; water for three coal-fired power plants (including two of the nation’s filthiest); municipal wastewater; industrial discharges; and commercial sand and gravel mining.
For more than twenty years, our water-focused friends group has been the only grassroots conservation group dedicated to protecting the Kaw. Our members come from rural, urban, and suburban areas and represent canoers, kayakers, fisherfolk, hunters, birdwatchers, and locals who love the river.
FOK’s Mission is to:
- Advocate the rehabilitation of the Kaw and its environs – water quality and wildlife habitat
- Promote compatible public recreational use of the river
- Encourage the development of adequate public access
- Cooperate with other individuals, organizations and agencies as appropriate to meet these goals
Friends of the Kaw is a 501 c 3, not-for-profit organization. Any donations made to FOK are deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
A Brief History of Friends of the Kaw
FOK is the only grassroots citizens’ group committed to protecting the Kaw. When we formed in 1991, the river was almost completely inaccessible to the public. We changed all that by increasing the number of boat ramps from six to nineteen, and leading float trips to teach people about the river and show them firsthand the destruction of commercial dredging. Our first victory came in 1995 when we led a successful campaign to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to deny a permit on the basis of the Kaw’s recreational value. Since then we have seen the number of permits reduced from 18 to 11, and only six remain currently active. Since 2001 FOK has been a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and we sponsor the Kansas Riverkeeper as a full time, non-governmental advocate to represent FOK and the Kaw on every major river stakeholder group. Our methods and vision have broadened but dredging remains our core issue. Now, we are prepared to muster our resources to oppose permitting for eleven remaining in-river dredging operations and encourage these operations to move to appropriately-located off-river pit mines. FOK has learned a lot about how to fight dredging, but we are up against a powerful lobbying organization, the Kansas Aggregate Producers Association, and their history of commercially dredging the Kaw for the past one hundred years.