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, 2021
Launch 9:00 AM
Manhattan Linear Park Boat Ramp (Big Blue River)
Manhattan, KS

RSVP:  https://forms.gle/xnHct98SkcXcBvwh7

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 have been incredibly busy.  You might think that we have little to do all winter, but actually the winter is a very different kind of “swamped”.  We spend our winter writing grants to fund our important projects, holding fundraiser events, participating in community discussions around water, getting our gear ready to go for spring…and the most fun thing we do is plan our calendar for the entire year!  Yes, we plan it all over the winter, down to every event.  By the way, please consider buying a ticket to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival – showing tomorrow night, Friday February 26….and if you can’t watch it on Friday, you have an on demand feature where you can go back and watch it through March 3, 2021.  Tickets here:  https://qudio.com/event/FriendsoftheKaw/register

What kinds of grants are we applying for?  We applied for a grant to do a Restoration Project in Topeka, a Rain Garden Restoration in DeSoto, and a grant for equipment for our work for the river!  Whew…and we are not done yet.  We are also planning some grants for amenities along the Kansas River Water Trail.  

By now, most of you have probably read our news about my Appointment by Governor Laura Kelly to the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority.  What an honor to have been asked and confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

Many of you might be asking yourselves, what is the Kansas Water Authority and how did Dawn get involved?  In the big picture way of thinking, the Kansas Water Office (KWO) is the planning agency for the state.  Established in 1981, the Kansas Water Authority (KWA) is within and a part of the KWO.  The Kansas Water Authority is comprised of 24 members of which 13 are voting members that are appointed from across the state, and 11 ex-officio members that are the directors or Secretaries of the various agencies that work on water.  This 24-member board is responsible for advising the Governor, the Legislature, and the Director of the KWO on water policy issues, approving the State Water Plan, budget recommendations, federal contracts, administrative regulations and legislation proposed by the KWO. 

The Kansas Water Plan also includes the Kansas Water Vision, the mission statement of which is to “provide Kansans with the framework, policy and tools, developed in concert with stakeholders, to manage, secure and protect a reliable, long term statewide water supply while balancing conservation with economic growth”.  Within the Kansas Water Vision are 14 Regional Advisory Committees (RAC) that work on goals and action plans in their respective local areas and watersheds and make recommendations to the Kansas Water Authority.  I have spent the last 6 years on the Kansas RAC, mostly recently as the Chair, assisting our 13-member committee with writing the goals and action plans that impact the Kansas basin, which includes the Kansas River.  It is here as a member of the RAC that I learned about the long-term water issues impacting our state. 

So what can you do to get involved?  Learn more about the work being done by the Regional Advisory Committees, Kansas Water Office and Kansas Water Authority here: https://kwo.ks.gov/  The meeting are public and you can really learn more about the issues by attending.  TALK about water…with everyone!  Share the importance of water to our state, our economy, ecosystem and recreation with your family, friends and local community leadership.  Watch our Kaw Minute on the Kansas Water Authority here:  https://youtu.be/1LcI3AlnhhQ

I hope to see you all on the river soon – we have some major cleanups planned for this year including another big tire cleanup near Shawnee.  We also have our tentative calendar scheduled and you can take a look:  https://kansasriver.org/calendar/

Notice the KAW 173?  We will be offering for folks to sign up to come along on four (3) day weekend adventures to paddle the entire Kansas River!  Lots of fun coming up this year….I am so grateful you are coming along for the ride – either virtually or on the river! 

Let me know if I can help you connect to the Kansas River!

For the river,
Dawn, your Kansas Riverkeeper

2021 VIRTUAL Wild & Scenic Film Festival

12TH ANNUAL WILD & SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL

Friday, February 26, 2021

Virtual Lobby Opens at 6:30 p.m., Films begin at 7:00 p.m.

Learn more: https://kansasriver.org/wsff/

This year’s festival will be virtual, so you can watch right from your living room! This Festival benefits Friends of the Kaw!

2021 Buy Tickets NOW!

FREE Education Tickets, first come first serve.  Email request for FREE tickets to:   info@kansasriver.org.  Courtesy of EVERGY’S GREEN TEAM!

FRIENDS OF THE KAW TO CELEBRATE 30 YEARS IN 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIENDS OF THE KAW TO CELEBRATE 30 YEARS IN 2021

LAWRENCE, KS (January 6, 2021) – Friends of the Kaw, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and preserving the Kansas River, announced today that they are celebrating their 30th year of work for the Kansas River.  As part of the celebration, Friends of the Kaw worked with local graphic designer Chris Millspaugh to create a “30 Years” celebration logo. In 2019, Millspaugh created the non-profit’s new brand/logo. Friends of the Kaw’s mission is to protect and preserve the 173-mile-long Kansas River through protection, advocacy, discovery and education.  Throughout 2021, Friends of the Kaw will celebrate with social media campaigns, a documentary, and a sandbar blast slated for late in 2021.  
 
“It is amazing to say that a small group of dedicated people started Friends of the Kaw from a basement in North Lawrence 30 years ago”, said Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper® & Executive Director.  “We would not be where we are today without the courage and vision of a long list of dedicated volunteers who started this journey.  We hope to spend the year recognizing the work that they started, highlighting the work that we do today, and sharing our vision for the future.”
 
Friends of the Kaw will share more information about the upcoming events and plans to celebrate via social media outlets and the newsletter.  
 
About Chris Millspaugh Design:
 
Chris Millspaugh Design specializes in brand identity, logo design, print design and old fashioned letterpress printing in Lawrence, KS.

###

Friends of the Kaw is the only non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the Kansas River.  Our mission is to protect and advocate for the Kansas River while educating and engaging our citizens.

Protect. Advocate, Discover.  #kansasriver 
 
For Media Inquiries Please Contact:
Dawn Buehler
Kansas Riverkeeper® & Executive Director
Friends of the Kaw
785.312.7200

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 8

Looking forward and loving parts of the look back…

KAW 173 Team

I’ve read many end-of-the-year letters that have been coming out the last few days…and it’s hard not to reflect on a pandemic that has certainly shaped 2020. My family would tell you that I’m a glass always full type of person – probably so optimistic that I dare to ever look at the down side. So, it is appropriate for me to reflect on what went well in 2020.

Sunrise KAW 173 Day 9

Did you see a gorgeous sunset on the Kaw this year?  How about otter tracks in the sand?  Or maybe you enjoyed the quiet waters of a river and snuck up on a pair of beavers?  Did you spend more time outdoors THIS year than ever before?  Or maybe, just maybe….you were blessed to fall asleep to the sound of beaver splashing in the summer breeze.  Those are just a few of my very favorite things about this year.  The KAW 173 Journey was a highlight of my life and I’m sure my six companions.  Immersing ourselves in the beauty of the Kansas River for nine days was an amazing experience and test of our individual strengths, our collective will, and our deep friendship.  Thank you to my friends and colleagues – “Steady, My Favorite, Mr. Gadget, Sugar Cookie, Sherpa, and my Soul Sister”.  My gratitude for one of the best years of my life.  

Friends of the Kaw was like every other business (nonprofit or for profit) this year – trying to figure out how to keep moving in a moment in time that is new and unknown to all of us. We had to figure out how to keep moving our mission forward, how to educate youth, how to help people discover the Kansas River and how to keep a non-profit afloat during a pandemic – and I’m happy to stay that we made it. I know that those words are not exciting, but the truth is – we made it – and that’s all any of us wanted. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our volunteers, members and donors. We could not do any of this important work without all of you. You are, and will always be, the heart of Friends of the Kaw.

Kansas River

I would like personally thank Kim and Denise for their hard work, creativity, flexibility, and patience as we navigated this year.  I’m so grateful to have had colleagues to muddle through this year with.  We learned a great deal about each other and about how to survive the tough times together.  

Looking forward, we have some really great programming planned for 2021.  Who wants to paddle the entire Kansas River with Friends of the Kaw?  We’ve got some plans coming up that might just be something to get excited about!  And we are so very hopeful that come mid-year we will be able to bring back our Members Only Events up and down the Kaw.  Stay tuned for the annual Kaw River Guide Workshop, educational paddle trips, BIG cleanup events, Beers of the Kaw, Wild & Scenic Film Festival and the KAW 173!

Our biggest news yet is that we will celebrate 30 YEARS of Friends of the Kaw in 2021!  We have some big celebrations planned for later in the year along with some fun social media trivia and events – all about the Kansas River.

Let us know how we can help you to PROTECT. ADVOCATE and DISCOVER the Kansas River in the New Year!

Our heartfelt thank you and wishes for good health for all.

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper & Executive Director

Beers of the Kaw – Ale Trail!

Beers of the Kaw – Ale Trail!

Supporting Friends of the Kaw and our work for the Kansas River! 

TICKETS on Sale….officially October 26, 2020! Get yours a little early …postcards will go out starting the week of October 26!

Link to ticket sales!

Event Details:  Tickets are $25.00 and a donation to Friends of the Kaw!

You will receive a postcard of brewer watershed discount….take it to your favorite brewery, get it checked off and you are on your way!  You will have from November 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 to complete the Ale Trail. You can choose to visit the brewery at their location on the map, drink their beer at another venue, or buy their beer at a local liquor store – up to you how you journey on the Ale Trail!  

If you return the postcard to Friends of the Kaw and have visited all of the breweries, you will be entered into a drawing for Door Prizes! You can email, mail or post a picture of your completed photo on our Beers of the Kaw Ale Trail Group page on Facebook!

Email to: info@kansasriver.org

Mail: PO Box 1612, Lawrence, KS 66044

Guess who’s coming to BEERS OF THE KAW ALE TRAIL?

9 Brewers….come taste some great brews!

  • 1524 Brew House – Concordia
  • 23rd Street Brewery – Lawrence
  • Fields & Ivy Brewery – Lawrence
  • The Free State Brewing Co. – Lawrence
  • Happy Basset Brewing Co. – Topeka
  • Kansas City Bier Company – Kansas City
  • Lawrence Beer Company – Lawrence
  • Manhattan Brewing Co. – Manhattan
  • Tallgrass Tap House – Manhattan

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 7

Why are there so many tires in the Kansas River?

Unearthing tires from a Kansas River sandbar
Photo by: Dawn Buehler

Last weekend, Friends of the Kaw and our partners and friends removed almost 400 tires that were embedded in a Kansas River sandbar. How did we do that? One at a time, with a shovel and many volunteers and partners.

It was exhausting, I’m not going to sugar coat it. We dug each tire out of the sand, mud and water. They were heavy. Each tire full of sand on the inside and often sitting in a pool of water. Some of the tires were semi-tractor size and others were car size, but imagine a semi-tire full of sand! So heavy, often taking three people to get them loose. Our motto is “one at a time”. Every tire off the river is one less in the river, so we unearthed them one at a time.

The question though, that we got asked more than any other, was how did they get there? Sure, there are modern day polluters that we are unfortunately still dealing with, but most of the tires on the Kansas River have been there for decades. If you are old enough to remember, pre-1960, our rural areas had no trash system. Even many urban areas did not have adequate refuse systems until around 1960. We find many old dump sites along the river from this time period. The tires, though, were used as bank stabilization. At the time, it was believed to help stabilize the bank and keep the Kansas River from eroding the farmland. However, we now know that doesn’t work. Not only do they not stabilize the banks, but tires don’t break down, they don’t go away, and they can leach chemicals into the water.

Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper, with tires from a Kansas River sandbar.
Photo by: Dawn Buehler

My dad, a Kansas farmer, passed away in 2015 shortly after I started as your Kansas Riverkeeper. I grew up in the Kansas River valley and spent my childhood fishing, camping and boating in the Kansas River. Right before he died, he took me for a drive through the bottoms where I grew up and told me stories about the 1951 flood and about his lessons from the river. One of the things he told me was about a tire salesman from Kansas City that would come out to farmers and give them tires for free to use to stabilize the banks of their farmland. My dad said that this is one of the ways that we ended up with so many tires along the Kaw. I committed that day, that I would use my job and contacts to the best that I could to get the big sites off the river. We’ve made a dent, but we have more to do. We have more sites on our list – from just before Bonner Springs, Tire Island between Eudora and DeSoto, a site before St. George, and again around Tecumseh. And that’s not all, it’s just the sites at the top of my mind. Want to join us? We’d love your help, but in the meantime, do us a favor and take a single tire off the river next time you are out. One at a time, my friends…one at a time..

We owe a gracious thank you to the many that helped with the Eudora tire cleanup. Join us in thanking REI, Evergy Green Team, City of Eudora, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife Parks & Tourism, Kansas Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Big O Tires….and a very special thank you to our Kaw River Guides, and boat captains Sam, Nick and Dennis. It takes us all!

Until next time, may you always have sand in your shoes.

For the river,

Dawn, Your Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 6

Challenges of a non-profit….

Old Battery Cases in the Kansas River near Manhattan
Photo by: Dawn Buehler

Last Saturday, I headed west towards Manhattan in the early morning darkness.  We had planned a Kaw River Guide trash and camp weekend complete with many partners and friends.  As I headed down I-70, it was easy to get lost in the early morning sunrise with thoughts of how the day would go and that we would truly make another dent in the trash that had accumulated in the Kansas River with decades worth of illegal dumping. 

My grand thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of our trusty pick up showing signs of stress.  Luckily, I made it to Manhattan, but had to leave the truck in town for repairs.  As a non-profit, ever dollar matters and the thing I dislike spending our money on is repairs, but we can’t do our work without that truck.  Well, $1,500 later, and we will have the truck back tomorrow.  My work before coming to Friends of the Kaw was as an accountant for well over a decade with an environmental consulting firm before switching to my science-based career.  Working for a for-profit business is so vastly different than a non-profit.  Everyone wants their donation to go to something grand like pulling trash out of the river or educating the next generation – and believe me when I say that most of the donations go to that.  However, there are things like paying personnel, fixing trucks, buying laptops and things that don’t seem quite as exciting, but are essential in order to make it to the place to clean up the trash and educate the next generation.  As the only non-profit dedicated to protecting the Kansas River, we pride ourselves on being a non-governmental public advocate.  But that comes with the fundraising side too – which is funding our work through memberships, donations and fundraisers.  It gives us the freedom to advocate, bust polluters and represent YOU – because our funding comes from the people.  So, to everyone that gives in some way to Friends of the Kaw – thank you!  Thank you for seeing the value of the work we do and the value of your donation – even if it goes towards a $1,500 repair to our only piece of road transportation.  I’ll thank you in advance now (and later) for purchasing a $25 ticket to the Beers of the Kaw Ale Trail – not just for the beer experience (although that’s pretty awesome), but also to help us pay for all of the things that you don’t see so that we can do the things that you do see.

Beers of the Kaw Ale Trail tickets will go on sale October 26, 2020.  We are finalizing the details and some of your favorite brewers are going to make this a great event!  We also have a Silent Auction with items that will make great holiday gifts, so watch for more information in the coming weeks.

Drone footage of tire sandbar at Eudora
Photo by: Lisa Grossman

In the meantime, we are headed out to the river tomorrow to begin the process of unearthing “about” 385 tires embedded in a Kansas River sandbar near Eudora.  Then on Saturday, we will continue to pull the tires out and shuttle them to shore at the Eudora Boat Ramp.  Thanks to great partners in REI, Evergy Green Team, Big O Tires, City of Eudora, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife Parks & Tourism, our amazing Kaw River Guides, and a couple of local fisherfolk with boats – we will get it done!  One cleanup at a time – my grand wish is to leave the Kaw cleaner and healthier when I retire – ready for the next generation.

May you always have sand in your shoes…

For the river,

Dawn, Your Kansas Riverkeeper