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.
Categories
Legislature Meeting Reports Policy

Water News: House Committee, upcoming meetings, and Wichita ASR recommendation

My two-year anniversary of retiring as Chief Engineer of the Kansas Division of Water Resources is only a month away. Over that time, COVID has dominated the news and there has not been much in the way of water news.  That seems to be changing. Below are recent highlights and news of meeting to come. 

The House Committee on Water continues its work. The committee’s agenda for the coming week includes presentations from KDA’s Division of Conservation and the Kansas Assoc. of Conservation District on Monday, 1/24; a hearing on HB 2480 on Tuesday, 1/25; and presentations by Kansas Water Office & Kansas Water Authority on the Kansas Water Plan on Wednesday, 1/26.

Hearing on HB 2480 (definition of “water project”) – On Tuesday the committee will have their first hearing on legislation, HB 2480, which according to the Fiscal note “would remove the prohibition of water supply projects from using the Public Water Supply State Revolving Loan Fund if the projects involved a water transfer as defined by KSA 82a-1501, et seq.”  The bill was introduced by a Hays legislator to allow them to qualify for funding for which they are currently ineligible. 

Media attention – Last week, the Kansas Reflector published an article, reprinted in Kansas newspapers on the Committee’s work, featuring its considerations related to water quality, reservoir sedimentation, groundwater conservation, water funding, and water agency restructuring.  See https://www.kansas.com/…/politics…/article257337627.html.

HCOW webpage improvements – We have improved our index page for the Committee’s work at: https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/hcow2022/. In addition to presentation materials, there are links to videos of each of the hearings. The page also includes a summary of the week’s agenda at the top. For more frequent updates, follow us on twitter at @KWRConsulting.

Upcoming meetings:

The Kansas Water Authority is meeting on Thursday, 1/27, starting at 8:30 at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. At this writing, no materials are available, but it should be available early next week at the following link: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/01/27/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting. Virtual attendance is also provided via a link on the page above.  

The 2022 Winter Water Technology Expo will be taking place at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City, Kansas on Thursday, February 3 from 5-9 p.m.  There will be demonstrations provided throughout the night, along with door prizes, food, and beverages. The Expo is free and open to the public. For more information visit: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/news-events/winter-water-technology-expo.  KWRC will participate as an exhibitor. 

Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)  The City of Wichita has the state’s only active Aquifer Storage and Recovery project. The project was initially developed and approved in two phases. During 2018, the City requested changes to the conditions associated with its existing permits for Phase II of the project. After a public information phase, the matter was set for a formal hearing in 2019, with the Chief Engineer delegating the hearing to Connie Owen and requesting her recommendation on the matter. On January 14, 2022, Ms. Owen provided her summary and recommendations, recommending the City’s requests be denied.  See the link below for her report and the extensive public record. The matter now goes to the Chief Engineer for a decision. https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/aquifer-storage-and-recovery/wichita-asr

Categories
KDA-DWR Legislature Meeting Reports Policy Water Rights

House Committee on Water Starts New Session Focused on Recommendations

Last year, a new committee was created in the Kansas Legislature: the House Committee on Water (HCOW).  The Committee held over 30 hearings during the 2021 legislative session, including a 2-day hearing in Garden City last August. Last year’s focus was to collect information on various state and local water agencies, their responsibilities, programs, staffing, and budgets.  

All the presentation materials received by the Committee, as well as committee minutes summarizing the same, are available on the committee’s website, under Committee Testimony, by date of the testimony. See http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/.

The website also includes the committee calendars, a committee roster, bills sponsored and a link to access an audio stream of committee hearings as they occur. Committee documents include State & Federal Water Programs Manager, Water Programs Org Chart, and committee rules, and more.

The important work of the HCOW continues in 2022, focusing on developing recommendations to the Legislature related to water, including recommendations related to increase funding for water programs. During its first week of January 10, 2022, the committee’s work started with updates from three state agencies (KWO, KDA-DWR, and KDHE).  During the week of January 17, the committee will hear updates on Wednesday (1/19) from the Nature Conservancy and the US Army, Corps of Engineers, and on Friday (1/21) from the Kansas Farm Bureau.

To make the Committee’s information more accessible, we have built a webpage with tables for 2021 and 2022 listing hearing date, subject (e.g. agency), and a link to the testimony provided and committee minutes.

We will be keeping this page up-to-date as the session moves forward.

Categories
Meeting Reports

Three Water Meetings in Garden City, August 16-18

Since COVID hit last March, water meetings of state-wide interest have been either canceled or virtual. This week, in Garden City, we have three separate water meetings, packed into three days. Here is the run down:

The Kansas Water Congress (KWC) will hold its summer meeting on Monday, August 16, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarion Inn, 1911 E Kansas Ave. The agenda is dominated by state agency updates in the morning and reports by the Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) in the afternoon. For more information on the KWC and details of the meeting, see: https://www.kswatercongress.org/.   

The Kansas Water Authority — On Tuesday, August 17, the KWA will hold its first in-person meeting since early 2020, starting at 8:00 a.m., also at the Clarion Inn in Garden City. There is a virtual option available as well. 

The agenda, meeting materials, and instructions for remote participation are available at: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2021/08/17/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority.  

In addition to its routine business and several updates, the two key action items of the KWA meeting including:

Kansas House Committee on Water – During the 2021 legislative session, this new committee of the Kansas House of Representatives held numerous hearings to collect information on various state and local water agencies, their responsibilities, programs, staffing, and budgets. Their work will continue at least through the 2022 legislative session. 

The committee’s work is accessible at the following link: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/, although you have to go to the specific hearing dates to access the presentations.  

The committee will have a field hearing in Garden City on August 17-18.  On the afternoon of the 17th, the committee will have a field tour and evening presentation. All day on Wednesday the 18th, will be a hearing at the Garden City Community College, including a public comment period, committee discussions, and several presentations focused on management of the Ogallala aquifer. 

The latest version of the agenda (as of 8/15) is: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/documents/agenda/weeklyinterim/20210823.pdf

It appears the committee’s August 18 hearing will be available via live stream from a link on this web page above.

Categories
KDA-DWR LEMA Water Rights

KWRC January 2021 Water Update

The 2020 was pretty slow in the water world. The pace seems to be picking up in 2021. Here are select
stories from January.

Chief Engineer Approves Wichita County LEMA Plan

On December 30, 2020, KDA-DWR’s new
Chief Engineer, Earl Lewis, issued an “order of decision” approving a Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) plan implementing wateruse reductions for all
irrigation water rights in Wichita County within the boundaries of Western Kansas Groundwater
Management District (GMD) No. 1. The LEMA Plan was developed and requested by GMD 1 to reduce
irrigation wateruse by approx. 15% for the next 5 years to extend the life of the local aquifer.

This order is the first of two orders required to implement the Wichita County LEMA. The order was based on an extensive public process. In it, the Chief Engineer found that the LEMA plan meets the state law’s requirements and that the ordered reductions are necessary for the public interest. It is expected that in early February, the second order, an “order of designation”, will be issued, putting the LEMA in effect for the years 2021-25.

The Wichita County LEMA will be the third LEMA in Kansas, following the notable successes achieved by
the LEMA plans in northwest Kansas, which showed that the reduction in water use slowed the rate of groundwater level decline, extending the life of the aquifer with little to no economic harm caused by
the reduction during the same period.

For more see: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/local-enhanced-management-areas/wichita-county-lema

Audubon of Kansas Files Federal Lawsuit to Restore Quivira Water Right

On January 15, 2021, the Audubon of Kansas (AOK) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas in an effort to restore the water right belonging to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge of southcentral Kansas. The Refuge is a wetland of international significance. AOK contends that the Quivira Refuge has suffered from a shortage of water for the last 3 decades, due to groundwater pumping upstream in the Rattlesnake Creek basin by irrigators, whose water rights are junior to that of the refuge. The basis for the lawsuit is a 2016 impairment investigation conducted by the KDA/DWR Chief Engineer which found that impairment is occurring and by the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act to protect its water right. During October 2019, the Chief Engineer had planned to begin reducing water use under junior water rights of the basin, but in an agreement that was brokered by Senator Jerry Moran, with concurrence of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that water right administration was postponed to allow more time to seek a remedy to the impairment. AOK’s lawsuit seeks an injunction, a declaratory judgment and an order of mandamus, to compel federal and state officials to do their duties as required by law.

For more:
https://www.audubonofkansas.org/aok-news.cfm?id=218
https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/impairment-complaints/quivira-
national-wildlife-refuge

Connie Owen Confirmed as Director of the Kansas Water Office

With former Kansas Water Office (KWO) Director Earl Lewis leaving the agency to become KDA-DWR’s chief engineer, the Governor announced her selection of Connie Owen, who had been serving as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority, to take his place as KWO Director. Ms. Own was confirmed by the Senate last week.

Governor Laura Kelly has announced that Dawn Buehler will serve as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority. Buehler’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The water authority advises the governor, the Legislature and the director of the Kansas Water Office (KWO) on water policy issues — including the approval of the Kansas Water Plan and revisions, federal contracts, administration regulations and legislation proposed by KWO.

For more information: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/home

KDA to Resume Public Hearing on Wichita ASR Project

On February 3, the KDA-DWR will resume the final stages of the formal phase of the public hearing process to consider the City of Wichita’s proposed modifications to Phase II of its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Project beginning. This is a continuation of proceedings that were initiated by the agency during 2018, in response to modifications requested by the city of Wichita. While the in-person hearing location will not be open to the public, the public will be able to view the proceedings virtually, using either Zoom or YouTube. The public is also invited to submit written comments and will be allowed to do so until Feb. 26.

For more information: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/WichitaASR

Upcoming meetings

  • Feb 2, Equus Beds GMD 2 Board monthly Board meeting, 9:30. Call their office at (316) 835-2224 for information or see http://gmd2.org/
  • Feb 11, Northwest Kansas GMD 4 will host both its monthly Board meeting at 9:00 AM and its annual meeting at 1:30, both at the City Limits Convention Center. For more information: http://gmd4.org/
  • Feb 11, Southwest Kansas GMD 3 Board meeting, 9:00 AM, http://www.gmd3.org/
  • Feb 17, Western Kansas GMD 1 Board meeting, 8:00 AM (CT). Check http://gmd1.org/ for updates.
  • Feb 18, Big Bend GMD 5 Board annual meeting at the Stafford County Annex located at 210 E Third Ave in St. John (just east of the Courthouse). The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m.