Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 12

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 12

Chasing the Channel….All the way to Kaw Point!

I grabbed the side handles of my most trusted piece of river equipment, my kayak, and hauled it out of the barn and into the back of my pick-up truck.  A couple of straps later and she’s ready to roll down the highway towards Junction City to meet up with another 20 or so adventurous souls who will join me to once again kayak the entire Kansas River – all 173 miles of it – over four separate weekends this summer.  As I rummage through my gear, I make sure I’ve restocked important supplies like lip sunscreen, hand sanitizer and plenty of packs of tuna, my river staple.  Lots of apples – check.  Nuts and cranberries, yeah got those too.  Last year, when we spent 9 days kayaking the entire Kansas River, I spent weeks getting ready.  I even put my kayak on my front porch so that I could pack it and repack it to make sure it all fit before I got to the boat ramp.  I was not interested in learning that I had packed too much at the boat ramp!  This year, things are much more laid back.  Been there, done that, but I still need to make sure I’m prepared for the myriad of Kansas weather events such as heat warnings and thunderstorms.  The most important thing that you need on the river in a Kansas summer, besides your life jacket, is water – and plenty of it.  I think I’m ready to go, but I don’t worry about it too much.  I have plenty of wonderful river friends that have my back and if I need it, they will always help me out.  That’s what friends do for each other, and our Kaw River Guides have become family to me. 

There will never be a match to last year’s 9-day event, but we are really excited about taking other adventurers along on this journey and help them discover the Kansas River in a whole new way.  I love nothing more than sharing this wonderful resource with anyone that wants to come along. 

The four weekends allow everyone to get away and explore, but doesn’t require giving up an entire week – and then some – of vacation time.  This also allows people of varying degrees of adventure to get out there and see what it’s all about.  I am excited about their experience…for each of those coming along…to discover a Kansas River sunset, the quiet of the early morning on the Kaw, the gut check when you need to make it a few more miles, the heat, wind, thunderstorms, and whatever else nature throws at us. I can’t wait to see all of the beaver, otter tracks, bald eagles, deer dancing across the water, and soaking in a cold beverage at the end of the long day with my muscles aching from a good workout and smelling of sunscreen and sweat. For me, that’s the filler.  The filler is what we do in between when we are born and when we die.  The filler is how we live our life and what we do with it.  The filler for me, is connecting with the outdoors and immersing myself in pure nature, letting myself be in the moment.  There is truly nothing better.  You combine those outdoor adventure experiences with my friends and family – and I’ve got all I will ever need. 

So, on Friday, we start this new journey and it is my hope that all of you come along.  We will be doing Facebook live posts of the sandbar, sunsets, setting up camp, and our beloved sandbar CSI (finding tracks and figuring out who they belong to).  So come along…. follow us on Facebook and catch a glimpse of something spectacular.

See you out there!

For the river,

Dawn

Your Kansas Riverkeeper

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

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