Conservation group to restore plants along Kansas River

To help protect against erosion and help filter pollutants

July 14, 2018 - 11:24 am

A local Lawrence preservation group will bring native trees back to the banks of the Kansas River to help rid the waterway of pollution.

Friends of the Kaw was recently awarded a nearly $78,000 Douglas County Natural and Cultural Heritage grant to help restore native tree and plant species to a mile-long stretch of land along the river, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Riverkeeper Dawn Buehler says those plants' deep root systems protect against erosion and help filter pollutants out of storm water before it reaches the river.

"We have to find ways to protect that water resource, and this is a really ecological and natural way to protect the water supply," Buehler said.

The Kansas River is a primary source of drinking water for about 800,000 people in northeastern Kansas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The river's watershed covers parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, but officials have identified water quality concerns related to excessive nutrients, bacteria and sediment concentrations in the waterway.

Buehler said restoring deep-rooted native plants to the river's upland vegetated areas, known as the riparian buffer, is especially important because of the large number of people who rely on the river as a source of drinking water.

Friends of the Kaw has partnered with ecologist and Courtney Masterson to restore native species to the buffer area. Volunteers will remove invasive species that make up the majority of the forest floor and keep the seeds of native plant species from germinating and growing. Masterson said they'll follow with planting native trees such as cottonwood, bur oak, papaw and buckeye, as well as wild grasses and flowers.

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