Urban Waters Federal Partnership—Middle Blue River Basin (Kansas City, Mo.)

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Reconnecting people and water is an increasingly important goal in many urban areas. Parks, urban trails, boat ramps, and urban agriculture all are ways that an urban population can interact with nature and improve quality of life.  USGS is participating in gathering the information that will make these projects possible.

Aerial view of U.S. Geological Survey crew preparing to sample fish in a pond at the Kansas City Municipal Farm

Aerial view of U.S. Geological Survey crew preparing to sample fish in a pond at the Kansas City Municipal Farm. (Credit: Angela Eley, City of Kansas City, Missouri.)

“Renew the Blue”—a rallying cry and a program to increase public engagement with the Middle Blue River where it flows through the Kansas City metropolitan area. Parks, urban trails, and boat ramps are envisioned to enhance healthy and accessible urban waters that help grow local businesses and foster education, recreational, and social opportunities. 

Collection of fish from a pond at the Kansas City Municipal Farm

Collection of fish from a pond at the Kansas City Municipal Farm. (Credit: Jing Tao, Kansas City Missouri Water Services Department.)

A major goal of the program is to help the river corridor revert back to its natural habitat for fish and wildlife, and the Heartland Conservation Alliance and the city of Kansas City, MO, are focusing on habitat restoration. As part of “Renew the Blue”, the USGS is assessing water quality, habitat, fish, and macroinvertebrate communities on the Middle Blue River and some of its tributaries. The assessment will provide key information on the ecological health of the river.

USGS also is involved in an ecological assessment at the Kansas City Municipal Farm. The Municipal Farm, long abandoned, is seen as an opportunity for environmental restoration, research, and recreation for the surrounding Eastwood Hills neighborhood.  The farm has waterways, wetlands, and wooded areas.

The USGS is assessing the phytoplankton community, algal toxins, and fish tissue toxins in three of the farm’s ponds. The ponds are adjacent to a planting site being considered by a local non-profit, Boys Grow, that mentors urban 5th-12th graders through agricultural entrepreneurship.

The information gained from the USGS assessment will be used by the Kansas City Water Services Department and the City Planning and Development Department to evaluate the suitability of the ponds for urban agriculture irrigation, secondary contact recreational purposes, and fish consumption.

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Stakeholder Quotes

USGS partnership in this project will help the City to explore a potentially sustainable resource for urban agriculture, youth education, and public recreation. The result from the assessment will provide the City with additional knowledge about the quality of its surface water bodies.
    — Jing Tao, Kansas City Water Services Senior Environmental Officer

USGS involvement in our Middle Blue River Urban Waters partnership has been invaluable.   When we work locally with the scientific and expertise of our federal partners we are able to accelerate our success.
    — Jill Erickson, Executive Director of Heartland Conservation Alliance

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More about other Urban Waters Federal Partnership projects