Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 27

Winter season is here….hopefully spring comes early!

Like all of you, I am spending some time getting ready for the incoming arctic blast that will sweep across not only Kansas, but the nation.  It is going to get real cold folks….so you definitely will not find me out on the river this week.  However, we do check the river throughout the winter as much as we can.  I have a few rules for winter paddling, such as sunshine, rising temperatures and little to no wind.  Winter paddling can be so beautiful, but you must have the right gear and ALWAYS have a second set of your entire outfit in the dry hatch along with a fire kit. 

Kansas River near Wamego. Photo by Lisa Grossman, FOK Board Member

This fall has been very busy with advocacy work.  I know that most people in Kansas see Friends of the Kaw as a paddling group, but we do so much more than that.  I often remind people that the paddle program consumes about 20% of my time and advocacy consumes 80%.  Advocacy takes many forms and does not just include work at the State Capitol to try to advance water issues.  Much of the work that we do involves working with cities and counties on projects that can impact the Kansas River, education about the river, conservation practices that protect water quality and holding our communities accountable for the health of the river.

I have spent most of the last few months working on advancing water policy with the Kansas Water Authority (KWA).  This role has been one of my most important roles.  I am lucky to be surround by a wonderful group of passionate water advocates on the KWA.  To learn more about recent work at our December meeting to sustain the Ogallala Aquifer, you can read these articles in the Kansas Reflector and High Plains Public Radio

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, speaking at the Kansas Governor’s Water Conference.

I also was honored to be on the stage with Governor Laura Kelly during the Governor’s Water Conference in Manhattan, Kansas. Governor Kelly has stated that she will make water a priority in her second term. We look forward to her leadership and stand ready to help however we can. Watch her interview with KCUR.

Kansas Riverkeeper, Dawn Buehler and Kansas House Representative, Lindsay Vaughn, on a bridge over Mill Creek just downstream of the Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill

If you follow our social media, you already know that we have been busy staying up to speed on the Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill.  This pipeline break spilled into Mill Creek near Washington, Kansas.  As your Kansas Riverkeeper, it is my duty to be a non-government public advocate for the Kansas River and its watershed.  My duty includes investigating issues in the watershed and this is a big one.  I drove to the site about 5 days after the spill and took some water quality measurements and put eyes on the creek bvoth up and downstream of the oil spill.  I have full faith in the EPA Region 7 and the Kansas Department of Health & Environment to clean up the spill.  I am less enthusiastic about holding TC Energy accountable for the full cleanup costs.  We will continue to keep you informed via our social media and we will stay engaged to make sure the cleanup is complete and that it does not fall to Kansans.  You can read up on our visit to the site on our Facebook page here.

Jet ski abandoned on Kansas River.

We did a river check on Sunday, December 4th from Seward to Lecompton.  We were checking a recent outflow update by one of our river partners, as well as looking at the sandbar that we cleaned up this fall.  We found a lot more tires, trash, and debris so look for another cleanup in this area soon. If you don’t know, jet skis don’t do well on the Kansas River as the sand gets into the water intake. We find a lot of abandoned jet skis. By the way, that is polluting also! Once the arctic blast lifts, we will do another river check if the weather conditions are right.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in 2022.  It is because of you, that we can do our work to protect and preserve the Kansas River.  Great things are in store for 2023 with more river cleanups, more advocacy with local/state leaders, more education, more restoration, and more paddles. I ask for your help to build a lasting future for the Kansas River.  If you can, please consider a donation so that our work continues. You can also mail a donation to PO Box 1612, Lawrence, KS 66044.

Our Education Team, led by FOK Education Coordinator, Denise Kidder. These folks educate the next generation about water quality!

As I close out my 2022 blog, I feel very optimistic about the future.  Yes, we have many challenges from climate change to education, but we have a dedicated team that is passionate about advancing our work.  While I work to advocate, monitor pollution and cleanup our river; Kim will be leading our programming efforts, Denise will be educating the next generation, Macy will be maintaining the FOK ship, and Jane will help us secure the tools to get it done.  I feel very grateful as the year comes to an end.  What a beautiful resource that we protect….and what a beautiful community of volunteers, staff, Board Members, educational team members and Kaw River Guides we have on our team to get it done.

With Gratitude.

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper® & Executive Director

Please donate today, for the health of the Kansas River.

Friends of the Kaw Responds to Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill in the Kansas River Watershed

Photo of a site on Mill Creek (Kansas), downstream of the Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIENDS OF THE KAW RESPONDS TO KEYSTONE PIPELINE OIL SPILL IN THE KANSAS RIVER WATERSHED

LAWRENCE, KS (December 9, 2022) – Friends of the Kaw (FOK) was notified that the Keystone Pipeline spilled about 14,000 barrels or 600,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kansas River watershed on Wednesday evening, December 7, 2022, at about 8:00 PM CST.  The Keystone Pipeline spilled into Mill Creek, just north of Washington, Kansas.  This creek drains into the Little Blue River, then to the Big Blue River where its waters are held in Tuttle Creek Reservoir before being released to the Kansas River.  We do not yet know how many miles of river this covers.

Commissioned in 2010, the Keystone Pipeline carries oil in Canada and the United States, and is owned by TC Energy and the Government of Alberta.  The pipeline travels across the entire state of Kansas from near Washington, Kansas in the north to just west of Arkansas City, Kansas in the south. It crosses many rivers and streams along its path.  The spill occurred very near Mill Creek and has completely inundated the creek with oil.  We suspect many fish and wildlife have been lost as this creek is host to numerous concentrations of birds, fish, eagles, and other wildlife.  This is of particular concern during the fall migration season.  Fish and wildlife are important to Kansans for the quality of life that they bring to our state and the roles they play in our native ecosystems.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a stream advisory for Mill Creek.  Both KDHE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remediation teams were deployed immediately to the oil spill site.  Earthen berms have been constructed and oil booms installed to try to prevent the oil plume from migrating downstream. The Kansas Water Office is monitoring the situation and it appears at this time that no public water systems have been impacted. 

Over 61,000 square miles of watershed in Kansas, southern Nebraska, and eastern Colorado drain to the Kansas River, the drinking water source for over 800,000 Kansans and a vital natural resource.  This area includes the creek, rivers, and reservoir potentially impacted by this Keystone pipeline spill.  While Washington County is seemingly far away from the Kansas River, disasters like this one illustrate how connected the people and places in our watershed truly are.  

For the sake of the people and wildlife in Washington County and those living downstream who could be impacted, we urge TC Energy to clean up the entire spill and to take action on any later impacts that may occur as a result of their actions.  Thank you to the dedicated teams at KDHE and EPA for responding swiftly. 

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Friends of the Kaw serves the Kansas River, the largest prairie-based river system in the world. The Kansas River originates at the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers near Junction City, Kansas and runs 173 miles east to meet the Missouri River at Kaw Point in Kansas City, Kansas.

Friends of the Kaw is a member of the global Waterkeeper Alliance.  Waterkeeper Alliance strengthens and grows a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water. Our goal is drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere.

For Media Inquiries Please Contact:

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper® & Executive Director

Friends of the Kaw

785.312.7200

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 26

Where did summer go?  Beautiful fall on the Kaw is here.  Fall Kaw sunrise. Photo by Dawn Buehler Do you ever just look back in a blur over the last few months and wonder where it went?  That’s about how I feel as I finally sit down to write a … [Continue reading]

7th Annual Beers of the Kaw

7th Annual Beers of the Kaw Beer of the Kaw is a beer tasting of the breweries in the Kansas River watershed, which is 61,000 square miles!  We use beer and water to educate about the watershed.  Come join us to learn a little, taste a … [Continue reading]