Smoky Hill River Renewal

City of Salina, Smoky Hill Urban River Renewal

Smoky Hill River Renewal

Urban and River Renewal Through an Ambitious Restoration of a Historic River Channel

Salina was founded on the banks of the historic Smoky Hill River. This section of the river slowly winds through the community and has been the source of hydropower, navigation and drinking water dating back to the early 1800s. Flooding was frequent, but in the 1950s, the City experienced a devastating flood of record. In order to mitigate the chronic flooding problem, seven miles of the original river alignment through town was isolated in the 1960s by construction of a levee and a bypass channel on the Smoky Hill River. The historic roots of the community along the mighty banks of the river were left virtually unattended. The original river alignment (old channel) has no sustained base flow and has accumulated sediment and urban debris. The old channel continues to receive stormwater flows from approximately 75 storm sewer outfalls.

Grass-roots community support has sought to restore this waterway through the community, not just for the historic preservation, but also to provide recreational opportunities and stimulate economic development along the corridor. In 2010, a formal master plan was adopted by the City and highlighted the potentials for renewing this key waterway. A recent passage of a sales tax increase by Salina residents signaled a strong, community-based support for advancing the Smoky Hill River Renewal from master plan to implementation.

Our team recognizes the importance of continuing the momentum from this recent success, preserving the trust between the City and its residents, and delivering a renewed, signature amenity for the Salina community. HDR worked with the City and its stakeholders through a comprehensive public involvement and community engagement process. Prior master plan efforts used riverwalk projects in Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and San Antonio as a template. However, the citizens desired a more natural project and we were able to develop a new unique riverwalk concept. 

We led public meetings, provided guidance in developing citizen advisory groups, held surveys of the community, helped the City with messaging, press releases and a project website, and utilized social media such as Twitter and Facebook to connect with community members and maintain excitement about the project. 

The project includes channel improvements, hydraulic structures, sedimentation basins, kayak and canoe launches, boardwalks, shared use streets, urban plaza space, new bridges/culverts, stormwater best management practices, recreational amenities, and operations and maintenance access. The renewal is estimated to cost $75 million, including engineering, land acquisition and construction. An endeavor this large will need to be completed in phases over a number of years. The project is currently under design, with portions moving to final design in 2021.

City of Salina, Smoky Hill Urban River Renewal
City of Salina

Salina, KS
United States

6.8 Miles of Redevelopment