Sand pit mine near Kansas River gets tentative OK

The Douglas County Commission has given tentative approval to a plan for a large sand pit mining operation along the Kansas River, but has required that a survey be conducted first to determine the pit's impact on groundwater supplies.

Commissioners last week tentatively agreed to grant the conditional use permit for the large sand pit mining operation near Eudora to Penny Concrete and Van LLC, the two owners of the property where the pit would be located.

The meeting Thursday was at least the fourth public hearing on the proposal in the last five months. Opponents of the plan have cited the potential threat to groundwater supplies, excessive noise, and the destruction of more than 400 acres of prime agricultural land.

Under the plan approved Thursday, Penny Concrete and Van LLC would pay for the “pre-dredging report” to be conducted by an independent consultant that would analyze the aquifer around the site to determine if the sand pit would pose a significant risk to the city of Eudora's municipal water supply. The analysis would also study impacts to domestic wells of neighboring property owners.

If that report shows no major issues, the county would agree to grant the conditional use permit, subject to other conditions that have already been negotiated.

“Thirty years from now when we have this pit lake, that's when the Census Bureau tells us we'll have 2 billion more people on Earth,” said Commissioner Nancy Thellman. “It's a local issue, but it's a global issue. We owe it to the next generation and the generation after that not to take the short-term gain and lose 400 acres of prime agricultural soil.”

Commissioners and the companies also agreed to cut the size of the project to about 200 acres, less than half the size of the original proposal for a 456-acre site. The reduced site involves moving the excavation site at least 1,000 feet away from the river, and eliminates a portion near wetlands.