Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 25

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 25

Water Funding Updates and Summer

Hello river friends ~

Last weekend we spent time on the Kansas River from Junction City to Manhattan for the first time in a month after many rainy days.  Many of you have heard me speak about this part of our river and how beautiful it is.  Think of rolling Flint Hills and a narrower river before the influence of the Big Blue River downstream at Manhattan.  There is a very diverse tree canopy, wildlife everywhere and a peacefulness on the water.  We camped on Friday night after launching at Junction City and while it was a hot afternoon, the evening was quite enjoyable.  I slept really well in my little tent, better that I usually do for the first night out camping. 

Morning on the Kaw at Junction City (Photo by Dawn Buehler)

The next morning, we departed really early because we had to meet the public group at the Ogden Ramp.  We shoved off about 6:45 AM just after the sun came up.  There is nothing quite like watching the sun come up on the Kaw.  The wildlife along the shores and in the water.  We saw a beaver jump out of its den and another beaver swimming along beside.  This is truly a special place.

Later we arrived at the boat ramp in Ogden and met up with the public and started our Bugs, Biodiversity and the Kaw event with Dr. Greg Zolnerowich, a K-State Professor of Entomology.  We had a really great educational day on a gorgeous stretch of the river!  Next time, you need to join us!

Kansas River through the Flint Hills (Photo by Dawn Buehler)

This week is back to advocacy and working on water issues across the state.  The Kansas Water Authority meets tomorrow in Pittsburg and as the Chair, there is much to prepare for the meeting.  If you want to listen in on the meeting, there is a ZOOM option here on the Kansas Water Office website: 

https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/06/22/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting

Speaking of water, funding and the Kansas Legislature; I wanted to give our members an update on the final tally for water this year.  In my many years of advocating for water funding, this is the first year that we have made so much progress.  Many thanks to all of the folks that have advocated for the last 15 years for funding, but also to Governor Kelly and the Kansas Legislature for finding a way to start to make water a priority. 

Here are a few updates:

  • The Governor recommended and the Kansas Legislature approved the FY 2023 SWPF appropriations including expenditures reflecting full statutory State General Fund (SGF) and Economic Initiatives Development Fund (EDIF) demand transfers of $6 million and $2 million, respectively, to the State Water Plan Fund. The full $8 million statutory demand transfer is the first time since FY 2008 in which this full amount was approved.
  • $80.0 million of State General Fund (SGF) was appropriated for the purpose of paying off capital expenses for water supply storage within Hillsdale Lake, Clinton Lake, and Big Hill Lake during FY 2022. The bill also included language regarding the dedication of revenue streams which would have been previously utilized for capital expenses on those three reservoirs to be utilized on retirement of storage debt in the future.
  • The John Redmond Reservoir bond debt will be paid off before the end of FY 2022, which will in turn put $1,000,000 per year back into the State Water Plan Fund.

We have a great deal to be thankful for this year pertaining to water.  Many heartfelt thanks to everyone that advocated for funding and kept the conversation going all these years.  We all worked hard to get here, but ultimately Governor Kelly and the Kansas Legislature made it happen.

As I close out this blog post, I ask that you please write to your Kansas Senator and/or Representative and give them a big thank you!  For now, let’s celebrate!  Then tomorrow, onward to the next….as there is more to be done in water circles.   

I hope to see you all on the river!

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 24

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 24

Cleaning Up the Kansas River by 2030

When I was a kid, we use to fish just upstream of De Soto on the back side of a little bend.  My Dad would take our trusty old jon boat with an old outboard mercury and shove it off the bank of our farm.  My sister and I in tow, we would head out for a day of fishing.  These are some of my very best memories of my Dad, who died in 2015.  My Dad was my connector between our farm and the Kansas River.  He taught me how to fish, bait a hook, drive a boat, canoe, drive an airboat, shoot a shotgun, ride dirt bikes and 3 wheelers, drive every tractor under the sun and even drive a semi.  He was convinced that his daughters could do anything the boys could do, and we did.  I often refer to him as one of the early advocates for women’s rights starting in the 1970’s. 

My Dad’s home made airboat from the 1970’s. Photo by Dawn Buehler.

While I was fortunate to enjoy the river from our farm, many Kansans did not have access.  Thanks to 30 years of Friends of the Kaw and the advocacy, we now have 19 access ramps that Kansans can enjoy on their public river.  When the Kansas River was designated as a National Water Trail (only the 2nd in the nation at the time) in 2012, that elevated the river in ways that I don’t think we all fully realized at the time.  Our river is now a trail not unlike many walking trails like the Katy Trail in Missouri, where you have plenty of places to hop on and off the river as well as many communities along the way to stop and resupply or get a cold beverage. 

Kansas River Water Trail designation in 2012. Pictures L-R: Laura Calwell, Kansas Riverkeeper up until 2015; Mike Calwell and Craig Thompson.

Our Kansas River Water Trail is now becoming an important part of the state – both as a source of recreation and as a working river to provide drinking water to over 800,000 Kansans, to provide irrigation, industrial uses and generate electricity.  I think for so many decades, our river was a “forgotten river”, as my predecessor Laura Calwell referred to the Kansas River in our 30-year documentary.  I think she nailed it.  It was forgotten, until Friends of the Kaw elevated the river’s voice.

I do love that our river is becoming more accessible and used by our river friends.  However, it still bothers me the amount of old dump sites that remain on the river. We removed over 1,000 tires last year, but there is still so much work to do.  We have to remember that at one time, we did not have the modern trash services that we do today.  Many rural people had no where to take their trash and often had a trash dump on their property or barrels where they burned their trash.  There also was a time when there was no way to properly dispose of large items like appliances and vehicles. So many times, they were used a bank stabilization along our rivers and streams.  We also know that discarded tires were used a bank stabilization as well. 

Tires currently waiting to be cleaned up. We will be there in October.

Today, we are cleaning up these old dump sites as much as we can.  Obviously, if an old car is holding a bank, we would not want to remove it because a) it might destabilize the bank and b) it is likely on private property.  However, there are many places along the river that we can do a big cleanup.  We have created a map (yes, a map!) of the tire cleanup sites that we have identified along the entire 173-mile-long river.  We have plans to get all of these tires removed by 2030, but let me tell you that this is an expensive endeavor.  It takes people and resources to make it happen. It takes months of partnership and volunteer building by our staff. These events “don’t just happen”. They take a great deal of coordination, partnerships, and money.

 If I can do one very important thing during my time as your Kansas Riverkeeper, I want it to be to clean up the old dump sites.  It is our duty to leave this river better than we found it.  I will not leave this mess to my children and grandchildren.  I hope you will join me in this endeavor, but we need your help.  We have set a goal to raise $10,000 each year for our cleanup efforts.  As a non-governmental public advocate, we rely on your donations to get this important work done.  Can you help us reach that goal?  Make a donation today to continue our cleanup efforts on the Kansas River!  You can donate online:  https://kansasriver.org/donation/?did=1 or send a check to PO Box 1612, Lawrence, KS 66044. 

Let’s do this together.  We can make our river a better place, with your help.  One tire at a time. 

For the river,
Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 23

Chasing the Channel – Blog Post No. 23

Photo by Dawn Buehler

Spring is such a busy time at FOK, that I often feel like I’m chasing from one thing to another.  As Kansas comes alive again with outdoor activities and meetings, it is an exciting time!  We love connecting with all of you after a long winter, and this one has been long! 

When I last left the blog post, a few of us were embarking on a 173-mile-long river check.  As Kansas spring would have it, we made it exactly half way and had to abandon our plans due to forecasted 50+ mph winds and rain.  We know that we must set the example as well as make smart and safe decisions for ourselves, so we decided that the river would be there for another day to complete our river check.  We did enjoy a beautiful trip from Junction City to Topeka.  We camped on the sandbars and literally chased the channel as the sandbars were in full view.  The river was really active with all types of ducks and the bald eagles showed off their glory. 

New kayak trailer build in process.

Back in the office, it was time to get ready for our season. This effort is not simply pulling out the kayak trailer and hitting the road.  No, it is much more than that.  We have to complete maintenance on the trailer, boats, and gear.  We replace old lifejackets and paddles and help our Education Coordinator, Denise Kidder, get ready for the education season.  First Aid kits are replenished and ropes and tie downs are checked.  At FOK, we all do the dirty work from volunteers to staff to board members, and we are happy to do it! 

Beginner Paddle was fun!

We held our first Beginner’s Wednesday and took about 50 people out paddling on the Kansas River for the first time.  We have more events coming up, so be sure to check one out.  This is a great way to get hand on experience with one of our Kaw River Guides.  We have many other events scheduled this year including Beginner Camping and our Members Events.  We are also launching the KAW 173 Challenge this year – to encourage you to paddle the entire Kansas River (watch for more soon!). The best way to watch for all of these events and be the first to know is through our newsletter. 

Hopefully by now you have all seen our updated Kansas River Access Map!  With funding from Evergy, we were able to give the map a big overhaul.  So many hands were in this project from staff to volunteers to our board.  We will be giving a presentation with Google for their Geo for Good Lightning Talks Series #9 Outdoor Recreation & Sustainability!  We are super thrilled to be a part of this event.

For a quick update with the Kansas Water Authority, we held our meeting in Emporia in April.  We heard an update on the legislative activities involving water including opportunities to pay down debt on federal reservoirs, full statutory funding of the $8M into the Kansas Water Plan Fund, and pay down of the John Redmond Bond. If all of these items come to fruition, this could be one of the best years for water funding in a long time.  That said, to fully fund the State Water Plan will require much more, upwards of $55M per year. Reaching that goal will be our next challenge.  To stay up to date, follow along with social media from the Kansas Water Office or look for meeting dates and times on their website:  https://kwo.ks.gov/news-events/calendar

Kaw River Guide Workshop 2022

We also held our annual Kaw River Guide Workshop last weekend to a great crowd!  Some joined us for the first time, while others came to reconnect with each other.  This is one of my favorite events of the year and by far some of my favorite people.  Our Kaw River Guides give their time and talents to our collective efforts for the Kansas River, and none of our work could be done without them.  You can still join us. Attending the workshop is not a requirement, so reach out to me today if you have your own boat/gear and want to get involved.  We could use your help!

Please consider donating to our efforts to remove these tires from the Kansas River – and many more!

Lastly, we are always in fundraising mode as the only non-profit dedicated to the Kansas River and a non-governmental public advocate.  We rely on donations from our members to keep things going.  While fundraisers help us much of the year, we must continue to fundraise for our activities.  We have a healthy schedule this season to educate youth and public, cleanup our river and advocate for protection.  Please consider a donation today towards our efforts!  You can donate here:  https://kansasriver.org/donation/?did=1

Our team scouting the tire site in the pouring rain!

We went out last week in the pouring down rain and scouted the next big tire cleanup site.  There are SO MANY TIRES.  Thanks to all of you – through donations or your volunteer efforts – we will get it done!  Save the date for Saturday, October 15, 2022 for a big effort.  We are gathering our partners, but we already have Every Green Team and Kansas Backcountry Hunters & Anglers ready to go!  Together, we can do more. 

We hope to see you on the river this season.

May you always have sand in your shoes.

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

It’s Paddle Season!

It’s Paddle Season!

Paddle season is here and you can join Friends of the Kaw for your first or next river adventure! We have big events coming up including Beginner Wednesday’s, Beginner Camping, and our popular Educational Paddle Trips including Bugs, Biodiversity & the Kaw coming up May 21 and a Water Quality Paddle on June 25! Find all of our events and sign up information on our event calendar!