Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 11

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 11

Join me in a moment of silence, please.

Last week we joined the City of Topeka in celebration of the completion of Phase I construction of the Topeka Weir, which included a chute and fish ladder. While this is a remarkable milestone, truly safer conditions will not be achieved on the south bank until Phase II is completed, and even then passage should always be on the north side through the chute. We should not forget Joshua Bryant, Richard Heyroth, and Ryan L. Moore.  All three of these souls died on the Kansas River while going over the Topeka Weir, a structure known as a keeper hydraulic, a water flow that recirculates objects that get caught in it.  While we celebrate the completion of Phase I of safe passage, we also remember those that died.  Bryant and Heyroth died in 2007 and Moore in 2011. 

This has been a long time coming, and for many, it took too long.  In 2011, Mike Calwell with Friends of the Kaw, and David Green, best friend of Ryan Moore, began their efforts to bring safety to the Kansas Rive Topeka Weir.  Read here: https://www.cjonline.com/article/20111125/NEWS/311259862  We owe a debt of gratitude for their early efforts for safe passage. 

Over the course of 10 years, many people have helped to bring this project to completion.  My blog post is meant to honor the memory of the three people that died, and share all that I know about the people behind the celebration that made this happen.  More about the project: https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/politics/county/2020/09/20/construction-set-to-begin-monday-to-fix-section-of-deadly-kansas-river-weir/43121033/

I’m sure I am not privy to the entire story, and some stories I’m sure have never been told, but in my 7 years with Friends of the Kaw, the ones that I know include these four people as constants in the efforts to bring safe passage to the Kansas River Topeka Weir:

  • Mike Calwell, Founding Board Member of Friends of the Kaw
  • David Green, best friend of Ryan Moore
  • Karen Hiller, Topeka City Councilwoman
  • Bill Riphahn, Shawnee County Commission, and formerly with Shawnee County Parks & Recreation

Join me in thanking these four people for their constant efforts, most often behind the scenes and away from the spotlight. 

Once the project started to get more attention, the final advocacy push came from many people:

  • Friends of the Kaw Staff, Members and Board of Directors (including former Kansas Riverkeeper, Laura Calwell)
  • Topeka Riverfront Advisory Council
  • Dirty Girl Adventure Owners and Members
  • Aaron Deters, formerly with Kansas Dept. of Wildlife Parks & Tourism
  • Jordan Hofmeier, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife Parks & Tourism
  • Brent Trout, Topeka City Manager
  • Kelly Ryan, formerly with Topeka Utilities
  • Braxtyn Copley, Deputy Director of Utilities, City of Topeka
  • Riverfront Action Team
  • And to the Topeka City Council for their efforts to approve the project and supporting funding to do so. 
  • Please forgive me if someone was forgotten.

Everything that we do for the Kansas River involves volunteers, members and partners and this project is no different.  I want thank our Topeka FOK Members and Board Members for continuing to write letters to their council members, calling them, and never giving up.  Thank you to the business Dirty Girl Adventures in Topeka for joining us to advocate and for pushing their Topeka members to contact their representatives.  It truly took all of us. 

News about the Ribbon Cutting:  https://www.wibw.com/2021/05/07/topeka-organizations-held-a-kansas-river-weir-ribbon-cutting-ceremony/

We celebrate the completion of Phase I of construction on the north side, wait for Phase II on the south side to start in September, and remember the souls that were lost and whose memories pushed us to get to this day. 

I also would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike Calwell, may he rest in peace.  I was grateful to get to see him in the days before he passed away.  I knew it might be the last time I saw him, so I whispered in his ear that I promised that I would see this fight to the end.  I promised that I would do anything I could to continue Mike’s advocacy for safe passage through Topeka.  Mike, our collective efforts got us here today.  So many people participated and that’s just how you always believed it would happen.   

I wish you were here.  You were among the early voices to demand change.  May you rest in peace knowing the one thing you wanted above all else, happened.

In all things we do…

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Your Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 10

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 10

It’s been a whirlwind spring already along the Kansas River and our events are in full swing.  Before I get too much further, you can see all of our events on our calendar on our website:  https://kansasriver.org/eventcalendar/

Nick donating his time and boat to the effort! Nick is a member of FOK and also the Kansas Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

There have been a few exciting things that we have been working on, but if you don’t follow us on social media then you may not know about it.  On Saturday, April 10th we cleaned up Battery Cases in the Kansas River at Manhattan for the 4th year.  We are slowly getting rid of all of the black dots all over the sandbars from Manhattan to St. George.  We had a great group of volunteers and partners that made it happen.  We also removed an old deep freeze and a refrigerator, both items we found over the winter. 

Refrigerator taken off a sandbar with the help of Kaw River Guides and Kansas Dept. of Wildlife & Parks Game Wardens.

We also recently took a trip down the Kansas River through Topeka for a river check and were able to go through the new Topeka Weir chute!  We put up a video on our Facebook page if you’d like to see the view from my kayak.  We are so grateful for this safe passage for boats and for the ability of aquatic life to move up and down the river through this section.  There is a grand opening scheduled for Friday, May 7 in Topeka, sponsored by the City of Topeka and the Topeka Riverfront Advisory Committee.  If you have the chance, go and take a look at the new design.  We think you will love it too!  By the way, the second phase of the project will fix the south side of the river later this year, so the safe passage is only complete on the north side at this time.

The new Topeka Weir is beautiful, go check it out. The first phase is complete!

As we start to celebration our 30th Year of Friends of the Kaw this year, we welcomed home some of our founders and early board members to participate in a documentary, to be published later this year. We are working with MattyDMedia out of Lawrence and are so excited to share this documentary with you later this fall!

Former FOK Board Member Stephen Garlow and former Kansas Riverkeeper and founding Board Member, Laura Calwell.
From L-R:
Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper
Joanne Berman, early long time Board Member
Laura Calwell, former Kansas Riverkeeper and founding Board Member
Patty Boyer, Founder, along with the late Lance Burr
Kim Bellemere, FOK Program Manager
Big shout of THANKS to Lisa Grossman, FOK Board Secretary (in the center) for her vision and hard work for the documentary! (L-Dawn Buehler; R-Kim Bellemere)

We continued to monitor pollution and dump sites along the entire 173-mile-long river and turn those in to the agencies responsible for enforcement.  If you find any new dump sites or pollution, feel free to contact us at riverkeeper@kansasriver.org and let’s work together to keep our river clean!  The month of April is EARTH month, and to celebrate we have many cleanup events scheduled.  We hope to see you at one of those events, or out on the Kaw for one of our paddle trips.  Let us know how we can help you connect to the Kansas River.

Until next time….

For the river,
Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Manhattan Battery Case Cleanup

Manhattan Battery Case Cleanup on the Kansas River Saturday, April 10, 2021Launch 9:00 AMManhattan Linear Park Boat Ramp (Big Blue River)Manhattan, KS RSVP:  https://forms.gle/xnHct98SkcXcBvwh7 … [Continue reading]

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 9

Chasing the Channel - Blog No. 9 Frozen Kaw by Lisa Grossman Spring is surely coming…My last blog post was at the end of the year, reflecting on a great year of work for the Kansas River, despite being in a pandemic.  Fast forward to now and we … [Continue reading]