Categories
GMD Groundwater

GMD 1’s Proposed Four County LEMA 

Introduction 

Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1) covers parts of five counties in western Kansas (Lane, Scott, Wichita, Greeley and Wallace Counties) over the Ogallala Aquifer. The GMD has experienced very significant reductions in saturated thickness, resulting about one-half of the irrigation wells no longer being used.

Yet, the Ogallala Aquifer continues to be a very important source of water for both irrigation and the significant economic activity associated with animal agriculture (feed yards, dairies, and such) attracted by the region’s feed availability, favorable climate, and remoteness. 

While there have been significant changes to irrigation over the decades to improve irrigation efficiencies, the declines in the aquifer continue.  

Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMAs) 

Groundwater declines in Kansas’ Ogallala Aquifer have been a concern for many decades, prompting the Kansas Legislature to pass its Groundwater Management District (GMD) Act in 1972 and amendments to both the Kansas Water Appropriation Act and GMD Act in 1978 to require all wateruse in Kansas, except domestic use, to be permitted by the Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources and to allow for a process to create special areas called Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs) to reduce use in over-developed areas.  Through action of the GMDs and Chief Engineer, all of western Kansas has been closed to new water appropriations. 

While eight IGUCAs have been created, none are in the Ogallala Aquifer.  One concern preventing GMDs from requesting the Chief Engineer to initiate IGUCA proceedings in their areas of concern is that the decision on reductions in use is left to the Chief Engineer based on the hearing record.

In 2012, the Kansas Legislature amended the GMD Act to allow for a process to create another type of special area to reduce use in over-developed areas called Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMAs).  Under its process, a GMD develops a specific proposal for reducing groundwater declines in all or parts of their District and the Chief Engineer conducts hearings to determine if their Plan should be adopted. If adopted, it becomes an order of the Chief Engineer. LEMAs typically include elements of flexibility in the use of allocations to reduce the impact of water use reductions, such as multi-year and group allocations. For more information, see DWR’s website at: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema.

Three LEMAs have been implemented to date:  the Sheridan 6 LEMA and GMD4 LEMA of Northwest Kansas, and the Wichita County LEMA within GMD 1.  Again, see the website noted above for details on these LEMAs. 

GMD 1’s Four County LEMA development  

GMD 1 made an initial attempt to develop a District-wide LEMA during 2013-14 after the Sheridan 6 LEMA noted above was created. However, after significant work with its constituents, the GMD 1 Board determined their LEMA Plan did not have sufficient support to move forward.  

The GMD 1 Board again discussed a District-wide LEMA in 2018-19. In 2019, the Board deciding to move forward first with a LEMA in Wichita County as the county’s need was the most urgent and had the most support, and to gain experience with the LEMA process. The Wichita County LEMA plan was submitted to the Chief Engineer early in 2020 and approved after the two required hearings, effective for the years 2021-25. 

The Board’s work of developing the proposed Four County LEMA Plan began during November 2020.  The LEMA work has been discussed at most of the Board’s monthly meetings since that time, as well as multiple special meetings. Further, the Board has worked with its constituents through a detailed survey of wateruser preferences, the sharing of details of its LEMA development at its 2021 and 2022 annual meetings, and at county meetings during May 2022.

After careful study, the Board decided to pursue a LEMA reduction goal that would balance meeting today’s needs without causing significant economic effects, while taking a serious step to extend the water resources of the District. The Board reviewed current estimates of the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) of the required reductions to stabilize groundwater levels, averaging 29% for the District. Ultimately the Board decided to set the LEMA’s overall reduction goal to 10% from the 2011-2020 average wateruse.

The Four County LEMA Plan, if adopted, would require irrigation waterusers within the LEMA to reduce pumping to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.  Required reductions would vary from 0 to 25%, with larger reductions for larger wateruse and lesser reductions for smaller wateruse, again with an overall reduction of 10%. The LEMA Plan also includes significant flexibilities to allow waterusers to make best use of their allocations as well as a robust appeal process to consider past voluntary conservation in the wateruse records used as a basis for allocation.  The LEMA plan, if adopted, would be in effect for years 2023 to 2027.

The path to implementation of the GMD 1’s Four County LEMA

On July 1, 2022, the GMD 1 Board submitted its Four County LEMA plan for the remainder of GMD 1 to the Chief Engineer for consideration. 

On August 4, 2022, the Chief Engineer, pursuant to statutory requirements, found the Proposed LEMA Plan “acceptable for consideration.”  

To be implemented by order of the Chief Engineer, two public hearings are required. Over the next couple of weeks, the Chief Engineer will work with GMD1 to determine the date and location of the first hearing, to be held early fall.

For more information 

The District’s website at https://www.gmd1.org/lema/ includes a copy of the proposed LEMA plan and other pertinent information, including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that addresses common questions about the LEMA Plan. 

Effected waterusers can contact the District office at 620-872-5563 to obtain an allocation report for their particular water rights.

Categories
Policy

Kansas Water Authority to hold Water Policy Discussion, August 10, Salina

KWA Water Policy Discussion 

At its last meeting, the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority (KWA), Dawn Buehler, announced the KWA would host a water policy discussion on August 10 in Salina to gather information from a variety of water stakeholders on their views on water policy needs for the future of Kansas and their constituencies.  Susan Metzger, Associate Director for Agriculture and Extension at KSU, will moderate. 

A draft agenda for the meeting is available at: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/08/10/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting. It includes: 

  • 10:00 am Welcome, Meeting Purpose, and Introductions – Kansas Water Authority Chair Dawn Buehler
  • 10:15 am Meeting Guidelines and Self Introductions 
  • 10:45 am Overview of Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 11:00 am Funding Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 12:15 pm Lunch
  • 1:00 pm Organization and Structure to Address Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 2:00 pm Open Discussion 
  • 2:45 pm Wrap Up

The facilitated discussion format of the day should lend itself to having opportunities to provide input throughout the day for those in attendance.

The meeting is open for anyone to attend. It will be held in-person only at: The College Conference Center Room, Kansas State University- Salina, Aerospace and Technology Campus, 2310 Centennial Road, Salina, KS.

While RSVPs are not required, it would be helpful for planning. RSVP to Matt.Unruh@kwo.ks.gov.

Regular KWA meeting, August 17, 2022, Manhattan

In addition to the Water Policy discussion noted above, the KWA will have its next regular meeting on August 17, 2022, starting at 9:00am, in Manhattan, Kansas. This in-person only meeting will be held in the Conference Room at the Kansas Department of Agriculture, located at 1320 Research Park Drive, Manhattan, KS 66502. Meeting details and materials will be posted as they become available at the following link: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/08/17/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting

To subscribe to this Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l4q8w8 (a link is also on the KWRC home page at: https://kwrconsulting.com/).

Categories
GMD Groundwater Legislature Water Legislation

Legislative Next Steps on Water: an Interim Committee and an Audit of the GMDs

As I wrote about regularly this past legislative session, the House Committee on Water had a busy two years. In the end, drafting the so-called “mega-water bill”, which, pun intended, got watered down and ended up going nowhere this past session. 

But the issues considered by the Committee are important and the work will continue. Between now and the 2023 legislative session two things are planned: an interim committee and an audit of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts. Below is what we know about each as of this writing. 

Legislative Interim Committee on Water, August 29-30, Topeka 

As requested by the Chair of the House Committee on Water, the Legislative Coordinating Council, which makes decisions on such matters, approved two days for an interim committee on water issues.  Specifically the approved topics are: “Issues Related to Kansas Aquifers, Dam Storage Capacity, and Funding.”  

The committee will be made up of both Senate and House members and includes: 

Senate:  Sen. Dan Kerschen, Chairperson; Sen. Carolyn McGinn; Sen. Ron Ryckman; Sen. Alicia Straub; Sen. Mary Ware.                
House: Rep. Ron Highland, Vice-chairperson; Rep. Cyndi Howerton; Rep. Jim Minnix; Rep. Joe Newland, Rep. Lindsay Vaughn; Rep. Rui Xu.

The meetings are planned to be in Room 112-N of the Capitol.

Those are all the specifics currently available. Below are two links where more information should be posted as the time gets closer:

The Kansas Legislative Research Departments web page on the interim committee: http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Committees/Committees-Spc-2022-Water.html

The special committee’s web page: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/.

Evaluating Groundwater Management Districts’ Efforts to Conserve Water

Again, as requested by House Committee on Water Chairman Highland and Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit has been approved to conduct an audit of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) efforts to conserve water.

The Audit study proposal is available at: https://www.kslpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Evaluating-Groundwater-Management-Districts-Efforts-to-Conserve-Water-Audit-Proposal.pdf.

The State has five GMDs over the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer, shown in the map below.  According to the GMD Act’s Legislative declaration, their purposes include: “the proper management of the groundwater resources of the state; for the conservation of groundwater resources; for the prevention of economic deterioration; for associated endeavors within the state of Kansas through the stabilization of agriculture; and to secure for Kansas the benefit of its fertile soils and favorable location with respect to national and world markets.” 

Map of Groundwater Management Districts in Kansas

According to the Audit’s study proposal, the audit has three objectives:

  • Objective 1: What programs do Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) administer and are those programs appropriate? 
  • Objective 2: Have GMDs identified areas of concern within their districts and do their programs effectively address those concerns?
  • Objective 3: How much did GMDs spend in the most recent year and what percentage was for directly addressing their districts’ identified areas of concern?

For each objective, the proposal has tentative methodologies listed, including such things as:

  • reviewing background information on the legislative purposes of GMDs, especially with respect to water conservation; 
  • collecting information from each GMD on their management programs, activities, budget, etc;
  • interviewing GMD staff on the same; 
  • comparing the GMD’s work and priorities with their legislative purposes;  
  • determining whether GMDs are identifying “areas of concern” within their district with respect to declining quantity and quality of groundwater and their programs to address these concerns;
  • and working with GMDs to determine how they are funded; how they make spending decisions and what portions of their funding they are using to address identified areas of concern. 

The Audit is slated to start late August and take approximately 4 months to complete, with a report to the 2023 Legislature. 

More on GMDs:

Upcoming KWRC News articles:

  • Kansas Water Authority Water Policy Discussion, Aug. 10, Salina
  • GMD 1’s Four County LEMA (submitted to the Chief Engineer on July 1; more at: https://www.gmd1.org/)
  • Hays-Russell Change Applications and Water Transfer Process

To subscribe to this Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l4q8w8 (a link is also on the KWRC home page at: https://kwrconsulting.com/).

Categories
LEMA

Northwest Kansas LEMA renewal hearings, July 26-27

Creation of the LEMA tool, 2012

The state’s Groundwater Management District (GMD) Act was amended in 2012 to allow for the creation of Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs).  Much of the impetus for the amendments was from a group of waterusers in Sheridan County of northwest Kansas who wanted to reduce use in their area by 20% to reduce groundwater declines and extend the life of their aquifer but did not trust the process in place at the time to accomplish this: Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs). The reason was simple: under the IGUCA process, the Chief Engineer makes the decision of what to do to address the groundwater decline problem, not the locals. In response, the manager of GMD 4 outlined an alternative process that works with Kansas broader water law, but allows the GMD to develop a wateruse reduction plan for the Chief Engineer to consider via two hearings. With the support of state agencies and others (I as Chief Engineer at the time helped to draft the bill and testified in its support), the LEMA provisions were passed.   

The state’s first LEMA created, 2013 

With the legislation passed, Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 immediately went to work with its Sheridan County stakeholders to develop a LEMA proposal to implement a 20% reduction in use for the 100 square mile area and its 200 water rights. After the required two public hearings, the Sheridan-6 LEMA was created for the 5-years of 2013-2017.  In those five years, they reduced significantly more than their 20%; reducing use approximately 35% instead. In 2017, a new set of hearings was held, which extended the LEMA for the years 2018-2022.

Geographic overview of the current LEMAs

The map below provides a bit of context for this first LEMA and the subsequent LEMAs (and one more that is in process). The brown areas show lands covered by the state’s 5 Groundwater Management Districts (Western Kansas No. 1; Equus Beds No. 2, Southwest Kansas No. 3, Northwest Kansas No. 4, and Big Bend No. 5) that overlie Kansas major Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer of western and south-central Kansas.  The Sheridan (or SD-6) LEMA is the orange-shaded area within northwest Kansas. The yellow-shaded area is the Northwest Kansas GMD 4’s “District-wide” LEMA discussed next. The green-shaded area is the Wichita County LEMA of Western Kansas GMD 1. Not shown but in progress is GMD 1’s Four County LEMA which is proposed to cover the portions of Lane, Scott, Greeley and Wallace counties within GMD 1. 

The state’s second LEMA, Northwest Kansas’ District-wide LEMA, 2017

The success of this first, localized LEMA, led Northwest Kansas GMD 4, in 2017, to develop a proposal for a District-wide LEMA. This second LEMA has important differences from the Sheridan LEMA, principally its much more significant geographic scope and the resulting diversity in the rate of water levels declines that are being experienced. Below is a map from the Kansas Geological Survey’s (KGS) High Plains Atlas showing this diversity of water level declines in the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer over the last 20 years (with blue areas increasing and the light green areas experiencing small declines). For reference, the Sheridan LEMA is shown with a red border, the GMD 4’s “District-wide” LEMA is the gray-shaded area of northwest Kansas.

To address this diversity in water level declines, GMD 4 proposed allocations for this LEMA which are more restrictive in areas of higher declines (the yellow areas) and less restrictive in areas of lower declines. 

While its water use reduction goals are not as restrictive of the Sheridan LEMA, this LEMA puts in place an important framework for on-going actions by the GMD, again with more focused action in the areas of the most significant declines. After two hearings required by the LEMA process in 2017,  GMD 4’s LEMA plan was amended to remove areas of no or very limited decline, but was otherwise adopted as proposed for the years 2018-2022.  This LEMA was opposed by some of the local waterusers both at the second LEMA hearing as well as in the Gove County District Court, but was ultimately upheld.  

GMD 4 LEMA renewal hearings, July 26 & 27 

Both the Sheridan LEMA and the GMD 4 LEMA (the new name for their “District-wide” LEMA as it does not cover the areas of low and no decline) expire at the end of 2022, and must be renewed for the coming 5-years, 2023-27.  Based on the work of the GMD’s advisory committees and the action by its Board, both LEMAs are proposed to continue on essentially the same terms as the previous five years (with a few tweaks to improve their administration). 

The Sheridan 6 LEMA hearing will be Tuesday, July 26, 2022, 2:00 p.m. at the Sheridan County Courthouse, 926 9th Street in Hoxie.

The GMD 4 LEMA hearing will be Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 10:00 a.m. at the City Limits Convention Center, 2227 S. Range Avenue in Colby.

Links for more information: 

Upcoming KWRC News articles: 

  • GMD 1’s Four County LEMA (submitted to the Chief Engineer on July 1; more at: https://www.gmd1.org/)
  • Kansas Water Authority Water Policy Discussion, Aug. 10, Salina
  • Hays-Russell Change Applications and Water Transfer Process
  • Kansas Legislature: next steps on water 
Categories
Ogallala Water Legislation

Legislative Efforts on Water Issues Stall; Ogallala Groundwater Declines Continue

Legislative update 

Substitute for the “Mega Water” languishes

As we wrote about during early March, the House Committee on Water produced the so-called “Mega Water bill” proposing to combine the state water agencies into a Department of Water and Environment, increase funding for water projects, reform GMD voting for its Board members, and more. While municipal water utilities and environmental groups lauded the committee’s effort to elevate water as a concern in Kansas. 

Based on the input from the two days of hearings, the Chair proposed a revised version of the bill which dealt with many of the objections heard. However, a committee member proposed a gutted version of the bill which would increase funding for water projects and some reporting by GMD’s on their fiscal matters and activities. This substitute version of the bill was passed favorably out of committee to the full House. For more see: https://www.cjonline.com/story/business/agricultural/2022/03/01/kansas-farm-bureau-agriculture-groups-legislators-square-off-over-water-policy-overhaul-new-agency/9332068002/.  

Since that time, the Substitute Bill for HB 2686 had remained “below the line,” meaning the full House has not considered the bill. At this point, it is unlikely to move forward.

Two Senate bills on GMDs considered 

Meanwhile, two news bills, SB 548 and SB 549, were introduced in the Senate by municipal interests frustrated with the lack of representation on GMD boards and what they see as an unnecessary and burdensome layer of local government.  SB 548 would restrict GMDs’ ability to regulate non-irrigation use; SB 549 would allow non-irrigation water right holders to withdraw from GMDs and their regulation.

The Senate held a hearing on the bills on March 14. Not surprisingly, numerous municipal interests supported the bills, asking the committee to move forward one of the two approaches to address their concerns; the state’s GMDs opposed both bills.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the Chair suggested it was too late in the session to move forward either bill, but believed the subject would be considered by next year’s Legislature.

What next? A Post-audit review of GMDs? An interim committee?

While it appears that both the Mega Water bill and its Substitute Bill are not moving forward, it is likely that a sub-set of the issues raised by the Committee’s work will be further considered after this Legislative session. The Committee’s leadership appears poised to request two actions to further the GMD issues in particular:

  1. Request an interim committee to continue the work of the committee, and  
  2. Request Legislative Research conduct a review of the GMDs, with a focus on whether and how they are carrying out their legislative purpose to conserve the state’s declining groundwater resources to prevent future economic deterioration of the regions dependent on these resources.

Both of these requests must be approved by their respective committees, which prioritize such requests. 

Groundwater levels continue to decline

Each winter, the Kansas Geological Survey and Kansas Division of Water Resources collect water level information in their network of observation wells in the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer. A preliminary report on this year’s findings can be viewed at: https://news.ku.edu/2022/03/23/groundwater-levels-fall-across-western-and-central-kansas. A map of annual water level declines is below. 

As a result of dry conditions in 2021, esp. during the growing season, water level declines were higher than in recent years, averaging 1.0 feet of decline over the entire monitoring network with the greatest declines being in southwest Kansas, which averaged 2.17 feet. This is the largest annual decline since 2013 (following the 2011-12 severe drought years). West-central Kansas and northwest Kansas saw lesser declines in 2021, of approximately. 0.5 feet.  

Categories
Legislature Policy Water Rights

House Committee on Water Passes Substitute Bill Seeking More Water Funding but Rejecting Reorganization 

This morning the House Committee on Water “worked” HB 2628, the Mega Water Bill.

First, the chairman proposed a comprehensive set of amendments, which would have: 

  • removed KDHE’s Division of Environment from the agency consolidation, leaving a Department of Water with its Secretary of Water; 
  • gutted the GMD provisions of the bill (membership, voting for Board members, action by the Chief Engineer if GMDs fail to develop conservation plans), but leaving its reporting requirements on finances and plans to implement water conservation; 
  • removed the water right fee for all water rights paying a GMD assessment and basing the fee on water use rather than authorized quantity; 
  • struck the increase in water protection fees; 
  • raised water funding by approx. $45 million/year via dedicating 1/65 of the current revenues from the state’s current 6.5 cents sales tax; 
  • clarifying provisions related to the water and environment maintenance board which would oversee the new funding; and 
  • amending the dam safety provisions.  

After some clarifying questions, Rep. Newland offered a substitute bill which included only the following:

  • expanded funding for water projects via dedicating 1/10 of one cent of the state’s current sales tax to water funding (approx. $49 million/year), in this case placing the funding in the State’s Water Plan Fund, using the existing processes to determine how the funding should be appropriated; and 
  • including the GMD reporting provisions on finances and planned conservation actions.

The committee amended this Substitute Bill to add a one-time reporting requirement on GMDs from the balloon on p. 24 of the Chairman’s proposed amendments.  Those provisions are as follows:

Not later than January 15, 2023, the board of each district shall submit to the senate standing committee on agriculture and natural resources, the house of representatives standing committee on agriculture, and the house of representatives standing committee on water a report that includes the following:

(1) An itemized list of each resolution, program established or other action by the board that resulted in measurable conservation of water over the last five years and the total cost of implementation of each item listed;

(2) an itemized list of each resolution, program established or other action by the board that the board believes may have encouraged conservation but did not result in any measurable conservation of water or any other quantifiable data over the last five years and the total costs of implementation of each item listed;

(3) the goals and priorities set by the board for any period over the next 20 years and any actions taken by the board to achieve such goals and priorities; and

(4) a list of the areas within each district that meet the criteria set forth in K.S.A. 82a-1036(a) through (e), and amendments thereto, and any specific actions taken to address the conditions in each area.

An additional amendment seeking to remove the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to review orders of the Chief Engineer failed.  

While many expressed dissatisfactions at the failure to include the re-organization provisions of the original HB 2628 in the Substitute Bill, after discussion, the committee approved the amended substitute bill on a 9 to 6 vote, and then passed it favorably out of committee

Its fate is now in the hands of the House leadership, which will determine when and if it will be considered by the full House of Representatives.

Categories
Legislature Policy Water Legislation

Mega Water Bill markup coming March 1

As reported February 11, the 283 page “Mega Water” bill, HB 2686, is out. See the following article for my summary of its provisions at: https://kwrconsulting.com/water-legislation/overview-of-hb-2686-the-mega-water-bill/. For a longer read, see the Revisor’s 7 page summary of the bill at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/misc_documents/download_testimony/ctte_h_water_1_20220214_01_testimony.html.

In this article, I will seek to briefly summarize its two days of hearings and two days of committee discussions, and talk about the next step of the bill’s consideration next week.

Overview of the bill as written


In summary, as written, the bill would:
1) Create a new Kansas Department of Water and Environment (KDWE), combining the Kansas Dept. of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources (DWR) and Division of Conservation (DOC); the Division of Environment from KDHE; and the Kansas Water Office. All of the duties, authorities, officers and employees of each would remain pretty much unchanged, just in this new Department.
2) Increase funding for water projects via two sources: first, an increase the current water protection fees paid by municipal, industrial, and stockwater uses, increasing them from the current $0.03/1000 gallons to $0.05/1000 gallons, and second, by imposing a new annual water right fee of up to $250 on all water right holders not paying the water protection fee.
3) Make significant changes to Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) including allowing any eligible voter to be a Board member; changing Board member elections to primary and general elections; requiring GMDs to make annual reports to the Legislature on their finances and actions; requiring GMDs to identify areas of concern by 1/1/2024; to conduct outreach to those areas and to develop plans to address the concerns by 1/1/2026; and where GMDs fail to develop such plans, the bill authorizes DWR’s Chief Engineer to initiate IGUCA hearings with the goal to reduce the rate of aquifer decline by 50%.
4) Misc. changes with respect to dam safety and stream obstructions including more enforcement authority. The House Committee on Water’s Chairman, Rep. Ron Highland stated his purpose in all of this: to increase the visibility of water issues critical to state’s future; to increase funding; and to improve coordination and accountability of various parts of government in water.

Hearings on HB 2628

After two days of briefing of the committee on the bill by the Revisor and Chairman, the Committee held two days of hearings, the first for proponents and the second by opponents.

In short, proponents were mostly municipal and environmental interest who agreed with the Chairman’s principle reasoning above. Proponents included: City of Wichita; Alynn Lockner; Burke Griggs of Washburn Law School; Water District No 1 of Johnson County; Friends of the Kaw; Kansas Farmer Union; the Climate + Energy Project; City of Hutchinson; the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) of South Central Kansas; Kay Heley; Kansas Municipal Utilities; Lucas Bessire; Rep. Blex; Nature Conservancy; Sarah Hill-Nelson of the Bowersock Mill & Power Co; William Bradley; and the Kansas Sierra Club.

In short, opponents were principally GMDs and agricultural interests who opposed one or more of the bill’s provisions opposing the GMD electoral provisions, more fees, and removing DWR and DOC out of the Dept. of Agriculture. Opponents included GMD 5, the Kansas Livestock Association; the Kansas Agricultural Alliance; B. Beckman; Kansas Corn; GMD 4; the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts; the Kansas Water Congress; the Kansas Farm Bureau; Water PACK; Southwest Kansas Irrigators; GMD 3; R. Hayzlett; S. Beckman; GMD 2; and T. Jaeger.

There were also three neutral testifiers who offered support with specific, generally narrow recommendation. These included the Kansa Biological Survey; the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers; and City of Garden City.

All testimony is on the Committee’s page or on my page at https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/hcow2022/, which includes links to the videos of the committee’s hearings as well, near the bottom of the first table.

See also the Kansas Reflector article at: https://kansasreflector.com/2022/02/20/we-cant-wait-15-years-legislative-committee-works-to-overhaul-kansas-water-policy/.

Committee discussions

On Friday, 2/11 and Monday, 2/14, the Committee had two days of committee discussions.

After discussion on the GMD provisions, there seems a consensus to remove most of the GMD provisions, except to require reporting on finances and what they have done, are doing, and plan to do on water conservation efforts. In addition, the committee plans to ask for an interim committee to consider the GMD matters more fully and to ask for a post-audit of the GMDs: their Boards composition, voting for Board members, and what GMDs are doing to fulfill their statutory purpose.

It is unclear what will happen with the proposed fees. There was discussion on various amendments on agency restructuring but it is also not clear what the committee will do with these provisions.

The Committee to “work” the bill starting March 1

As the bill is “blessed”, it is not subject to the regular legislative deadlines, e.g. last week’s “turn around” deadline where a bill must be through the chamber of origin. So, the Chair decided to work the bill this coming week, starting on Tuesday, March 1.

From the committee discussion, a number of amendments will be considered, one in turn, and then the final bill we be acted upon, to determine if it will pass out of the committee favorably for the full House to consider.

Stay tuned. I will plan to do my next article after the Committee’s action. I will also do updates on my Twitter account: @kwrconsulting and on my Facebook page @kwrconsultingllc.

Categories
Water Legislation

Overview of HB 2686, the Mega Water Bill

Summary by David Barfield, Kansas Water Resources Consulting


Last updated: 2/10/2022, 11:00 pm, based on brief initial overview of the bill.


This page (https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/hcow2022/summary-of-hb-2686-the-mega-water-bill/) will be updated with additional review of the bill.

The mega water bill has arrived. Its legislative web page is at:
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/hb2686/.

The proposed legislation is at:
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/documents/hb2686_00_0000.pdf

Based on the calendar of the House Committee on Water (HCOW) at
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/documents/agenda/weekly/20
220220.pdf
, Monday and Tuesday (2/14 and 2/15) will be briefings on the bill by the Revisor and
Committee Leadership, respectively; two days of hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, with possible action on the bill by the Committee on Friday.

Its short title is: “Creating the Kansas department of water and environment within the executive branch and transferring the duties of certain offices to such department, establishing the water and environment maintenance fund and the water and environment maintenance board, modifying election procedures for groundwater management districts, establishing a water rights fee on owners of water rights and permits to appropriate water for beneficial use, authorizing the chief engineer to issue certain orders without review by the secretary of water and environment, increasing water protection fees, establishing a civil penalty for obstructions in streams violations and establishing the water structures emergency fund.”

The “short title” seems to provide a good overview of the bill.

It is 283 pages. Sections 1-14 (pages 1-26) are new sections that provide most of the substantive changes. From my quick review, the remaining sections are mostly edits to existing statutes to confirm to the proposed legislations intent (and Revisor clean-ups). A few exceptions are noted below. There certainly could be other substantive changes that I missed, esp. in areas where my experience is limited (i.e. outside statutes that DWR and the GMDs administer).

Here is an overview of the proposed legislation:
New Section 1 – Establishes the new Department of Water and Environment (DWE).
New Section 2 – Administration of the DWE, powers
New Section 3 – Division of Water and Environmental Planning (currently KWO)
New Section 4 – Division of Environment and Conservation (merging KDHE’s division of environment & KDA’s Division of Conservation)

For KWO, KDHE’s Div. of Environment, and KDA’s DOC:

  • The Directors will be appointed by the Secretary, serving at his/her pleasure
  • The adoption of rules will be transferred to the Secretary
  • Existing rules, orders, and directives shall be orders, etc. of the Secretary

New Section 5 – Division of Water Resources continues with same name, Chief Engineer as Director

  • DWR continue to be administered by the Chief Engineer (CE). The CE will be appointed by Secretary but in classified service.
  • The will CE continue with his/her own rule making but subject to review by Secretary
  • Orders and directives will continue to be those of the CE.

New Section 6 – Department of Health is the remainder of KDHE.
New Section 7 – Water and Environment Maintenance Fund
New Section 8 – Water and Environment Maintenance Board
New Section 9 – Annual Water Right Fee ($1/AF, min $25, max $250)
New Section 10 – Election of GMD District Board members (the language does not say GMD, but at the end it says the section is supplemental to GMD act)
New Section 11 – Eligibility for GMD Board members
New Section 12 – Number of GMD Board members
New Section 13 – Annual report to the Legislature by each GMD
New Section 14 – Requirements for GMDs to identify areas of concern, conduct outreach to those areas and to develop plans to address the concerns; if GMDs fail to develop plans, the CE is authorized to initiate IGUCA to reduced the rate of aquifer decline.
Section 15 and following are amendments to existing statutes. The short title says there are increases to fees; I did not look for those.
Section 183 (p.209-210) adds civil penalties for violations of the stream obstruction act and adds a water structures emergency fund.
Section 249-252 (p. 260-62) some changes on CE hearings (likely to better confirm with the
administrative procedure and judicial review acts).
Section 280 – repealing numerous statutes
Section 281 – effective date: July 1, 2023

Note: My review to date has been very limited and has focused on an overview of the legislation, esp. for the sections of particular interest to me (I have not and do NOT intend to provide a comprehensive review). The Revisor’s presentation on Monday and Committee Leadership presentation on Tuesday will provide a more comprehensive review.

Categories
Legislature Water Legislation

Water News: Major Water Legislation Awaits Revisor

House Committee on Water 

As I reported in last week’s KWRC News, there is a lot of talk in the halls of the Capitol about major water legislation coming out of the House Committee on Water soon. Apparently, the chair of the committee had hoped to have it introduced last week, but it is taking time to get it through the Revisor’s Office due, in part, to its magnitude (400+ pages). It is now expected around the end of the week, Feb. 11. No one is revealing specifics, but it is rumored to propose significant re-organization of the state’s water agencies, more fees to pay for water projects, and more. So stay tuned here, on my Twitter account @kwrconsulting, or on Facebook page at  kwrconsulting.  

We have updated our HCOW webpage for the latest news and added links to media on the committee’s work including the following:  

Groundwater Management District (GMD) annual meetings 

During February and March, all five of the state’s GMDs hold their annual meetings where you can learn more about the GMD’s activities, plans, and budgets and where elections for Board members occur. Below are the dates, times, locations, and links the GMD websites for more information. 

Categories
Policy Water Legislation

Major Water Legislation Looms

Like last week, this week saw significant water news and still more is to come.  The big news looming is expected major water legislation coming out of the House Committee on Water in the next week or two, but most likely in the coming days. 

House Committee on Water (HCOW)

This past week’s meeting of the HCOW included informational briefings from the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Conservation and the Association of Conservation Districts, both on Monday, and the briefings by the Kansas Water Office (KWO) Director and Kansas Water Authority Chairperson on Wednesday. Links to the documents presented, as well as videos of the sessions can be found at: https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/hcow2022/.  

The KWO/KWA briefing featured a review of the KWA’s Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature available here: www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/misc_documents/download_testimony/ctte_h_water_1_20220126_01_testimony.html.  The report is a helpful primer on the myriad of programs funded by the State Water Plan Fund under the headings of the Ogallala Aquifer, Reservoir Water Supply & Sediment Management, and Water Quality Initiatives. The report also includes updates on many current water issues of general interest. 

Hearing on House Bill 2480: The HCOW held their first hearing on water legislation HB 2480 on Tuesday, which would revise the public water supply project loan program’s definition of “project” to remove the definition’s current exclusion of projects that are related to the diversion or transportation of water acquired through a water transfer. During the hearing, the HCOW heard supportive oral testimony from the City of Hays and received written testimony from the City of Russell which was unable to attend. The Committee also heard neutral testimony from the Director of the Bureau of Water and saw no opponents. 

House Committee on Water
House Committee on Water

Committee action on HB 2480 – On Thursday, the HCOW “worked” the bill, quickly passing the bill out of committee favorably to the House floor. Similar legislation, SB 358, was heard and passed out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Both were put on their respective chambers consent calendars.

Next week’s HCOW agenda and hall talk of coming major legislation –  According to the committee’s agenda, it will be a quiet week this week consisting of an update on Monday from DWR’s Chief Engineer on Dam Safety, with the rest of the week labeled: “Meeting on call of the chair.”

But in the halls, in talking with committee members and others, I heard talk that a 400+ page water bill is coming to the Committee in this week (or so) which is expected to propose significant re-organization of the state’s water agencies, more fees to pay for water projects, and more. So stay tuned! 

The Kansas Water Authority (KWA) meeting

On Thursday, January 27, the Kansas Water Authority held an in-person meeting in Topeka. The highlight of the meeting was a visit by Governor Kelly where she highlighted her recommendations to the Legislature to fully fund the State Water Plan Fund for the first time since 2008.

While this is good news, it is widely held that even with the restorage of full funding, this level of funding is inadequate for Kansas current and future needs. One prominent example, discussed in the KWA Annual Report, is the need start paying down the state’s obligation to pay for the remaining storage in Federal Reservoir which will come due over the coming decade or two. 

Chief Engineer Earl Lewis gave an update on several high-profile water issues that remaining pending including:

  • Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 has formally requested the Sheridan 6 Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA), which will expire at the end of 2022, be extend for another 5 years and plans to do the same for their District-wide LEMA in the coming weeks.
  • With respect to the Quivira Impairment issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service elected not to continue with its MOU with GMD No. 5, but will not request the Chief Engineer administer junior water rights as long as progress continues in developing a long-term solution.