Essex Heights Road, about 1 1/2 miles southeast of Halstead, is about to officially get shorter — thanks to the Little Arkansas River changing course in the area of SW 60th and Essex Heights Road.
According to Russell Kruss, trustee of Lakin Township, the river has cut out an S-Curve and straightened out, though it still turns at the intersection of SW 60th and Essex Heights. Unfortunately, it has been cutting into that intersection, and the road is beginning to wash away.
"We have lost about 45 feet between the river and the road. The river is into the road now. The trees are gone," Kruss said.
All of that has happened in the past five years. Kruss also pointed out new damage, some ruts 30 inches deep, to the road that occurred during the last round of flooding this spring.
"It comes through there with more force than ever before," Kruss said.
The township put up barriers on Essex Heights and SW 60th in Oct, of 2018, effectively closing a portion of the road. The township is asking the county to permanently close that portion of the road.
"Mother Nature has been changing river courses for millions of years. ... If you move that road, do you move it 100 yards or 500 yards," said Commissioner Randy Hague.
"Our proposal is to close the east 1/4 mile of SW 60th ... going to the west 1/4 mile. There is one house, and that is where the barriers will have to be installed. There is one house west of the river, but it is abandoned at this time. We have tried to get ahold of the property owner for (months) and we are not able to do it," Kruss said.
Also along Essex Heights is a valve that a pipeline company must access at least once per week. The township has received a request from the company to place gates across the road, with a possible offer to provide those gates.
Also, landowners have approached the township about closing down the mile lines roads as well.
"The problem we have is where our barricades are now, we are getting trash dumps on a weekly basis," Kruss said.
Signs and barricades have already been purchased for permanent closure. The commission did not take action to close the road but directed the county legal advisor to draft a resolution to permanently close the portion of the road requested by the township. That resolution should be ready to vote on at the next commission meeting, July 30.
In other business:
• Approved a resolution for new park regulations creating a seven and 14-day rough camping pass at the parks. The resolution will be published in The Newton Kansan. The action, and resolution, did not set rates for camping.
• Approved an annexation by the city of Newton to facilitate water service for the Newton City/County Airport.
• Approved notice of budget hearing for Aug. 6. The hearing is required due to an amendment to the 2019 budget. Elderly Services, 911 fund and diversion funds are to be amended.
• Approved a not-to-exceed budget for 2020 for publication. The maximum tax collection was set at 13,487,277 which is an estimated mill levy of 42.175, a .1 mill decrease. The budget hearing will be Aug. 6. The notice of hearing will be published in The Newton Kansan.