Categories
Policy

The 2022 Water Legacy Award Winners 

One of several highlights from last week’s Governor’s Water Conference was the annual bestowing of the Water Legacy Award(s). The award recognizes an individual who has, over the course of his/her career, made extraordinary contributions in water and resource management in Kansas. In a sense, it is a lifetime achievement award for individuals who deserve recognition for the lasting impact they have made toward ensuring a safe and secure water supply for Kansans, now and into the future.    

Normally only one award is given per year. This year three Water Legacy Awards were given due to the number of worthy applicants and as it had been three years since the last award was last made (as the 2020 and 2021 conferences were virtual). 

This year’s recipients included an agency attorney, a scientist, and a law professor.  I helped write one of the nominations, supported a second, and would have supported the third if asked, as I have known and worked with each of them over my own career and agree each is deserving.

Below are the full nomination statements, as read at the conference, when each award was given.  Pictured below are the awardees, from left to right: Donald Whittemore, Lee Rolfs, and John Peck.

Leland “Lee” Rolfs, Agency Attorney

Leland “Lee” Rolfs is a native Kansan, born in Topeka, where he attended elementary and junior high school. He graduated from Hays High School. Upon graduation from Ohio University, Lee began his professional career in Chicago before returning to Kansas to pursue a law degree at the University of Kansas School of Law.

Lee served as an attorney for the Water Resources Board and as Legal Counsel for the Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources (within KDA), holding the status of Special Assistant Attorney General, from 1978 through 2008.  Over his extensive career, Lee was involved in nearly every aspect of water policy formation and implementation.  

Lee worked extensively to draft numerous written Administrative Policies for Chief Engineers Guy Gibson and David Pope. Lee led the agency efforts to convert the Administrative Policies into formal regulations, bringing consistency to DWR’s implementation of more than twenty-five water laws, including the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, the Groundwater Management District Act, and Water Structures laws. Lee collaborated well with staff, the public, and Kansas’ diverse local units of government.

Similarly, Lee also supplied excellent staff support for DWR on legislative matters. For many years, he was deeply involved in legislative activities, including drafting legislation and preparing testimony for the Chief Engineer to present.

Lee supplied legal support for DWR’s administrative hearings on diverse, complex water issues, such as the enforcement of repairs to unsafe dams, water rights related issues, and the designation of Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs).  As decisions of the Chief Engineer were appealed to the courts, he and his legal staff were involved in District Court litigation and appeals to higher courts. 

He successfully defended several cases before the Kansas Supreme Court, including one that challenged the constitutionality of the 1978 amendments to the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, which mandated permits or existing water rights for virtually all non-domestic water uses in Kansas.

Lee provided legal counsel to the Chief Engineer and other Kansas Commissioners for Kansas’ four Interstate River Compacts.  In two of these Compacts, Kansas had to seek enforcement through litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases that required decades of perseverance, with Lee being a major player on the Kansas Litigation Team.  For example, in Kansas v. Colorado, which was filed to enforce the terms of the Arkansas River Compact, he helped examine witnesses at trial before the Special Master, draft numerous briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and prepare the team or oral arguments before the Court.

Similarly, in Kansas v. Nebraska and Colorado,  filed in the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce the terms of the Republican River Compact, Lee was a key member of the Kansas settlement team that achieved enforceable standards for Compact compliance.

In total, with Lee’s significant help, Kansas achieved Compact compliance by upstream states with both Compacts and received over $40 million in economic damages for past violations of these Compacts.

Since his retirement from state service, Lee has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law, teaching water law at Washburn University School of Law.  He has also consulted with the Kansas Water Office, the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes, and the Division of Water Resources, and represented clients in water-related litigation.  

Over the years, Lee often navigated many contentious, controversial, and even volatile circumstances.  But even in the most stressful of situations, Lee could be counted on to respond with calm, reason and good humor.    

It is difficult to adequately describe the impact and influence Lee has had on the management of water resources in Kansas; I challenge anyone to find a water law, regulation or appropriation standard that does not bear his fingerprints or influence.    

Donald Whittemore, Scientist  

Dr Donald Whittemore is a Senior Scientific Fellow, Emeritus, in the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. He received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on the hydrogeology and hydrogeochemistry of water resources in Kansas, especially the High Plains Aquifer, stream-aquifer systems, and saline waters.

More than any other individual in the last century, Don has significantly enhanced our knowledge of Kansas groundwater and surface water resources. Don’s work has been central to helping identify and control contamination, driving everything from remediation efforts to litigation. 

His detailed interpretations of water chemistry have significantly enhanced our understanding of the water quality of Kansas aquifers and surface waters, including uranium concentration in the Arkansas River and the High Plains Aquifer in western Kansas, the composition of brines across the state, potable water prospects for the Dakota aquifer, bromide problems in the Kansas River, and the multitude of similar issues he has worked on.   

Moreover, his detailed assessments of regional hydrogeology have proven extremely valuable in helping us better understand prospects for groundwater-fed irrigation in western and central Kansas. It is no exaggeration to say that his work on water chemistry and regional hydrogeology will be heavily relied on far into the future.

He has collaborated with others on relationships among water-level changes, groundwater use, and climate, and on uranium in the Arkansas River corridor in southwest Kansas.

Don retired from the KGS in 2017, but is still working on a number of projects as an emeritus scientist.  He is a truly irreplaceable resource, and not just in terms of water quality and regional hydrogeology, but in terms of a range of water issues in the state, such as water use by invasive vegetation in the riparian zones of central Kansas or the chemistry of recycling/reuse of saline water from oil production, which relates directly to the issue of induced seismicity. Odds are high that if there’s a water issue facing the state, Don has seen it, studied it, and can accurately comment on it. The state is incredibly fortunate that he chose to devote his career to Kansas water issues.

Don’s work stands the test of time in part because he is so careful and methodical.  As one of his colleagues from the KGS put it: “His results and conclusions are consistently reliable.  You can take them to the bank. I have never heard anyone question even a single sentence of Don’s work.”  Don cares deeply about getting things right. His persistent attention to detail has paid great dividends to our state and will continue to do so well into the future.

Dr. Whittemore is the first scientist to receive the Kansas Water Legacy Award. 

John Peck, Law Professor  

Professor John Peck is a native Kansan, graduating from Kansas State University in 1968 with a degree in civil engineering. After working three years for the U.S. Public Health Service and the EPA in Washington, D.C., he earned his law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.

He practiced law with Everett, Seaton, Peck here in Manhattan, from 1974 to 1978, at which time he joined the law faculty at the University of Kansas School of Law.  He taught contracts, land transactions, and family law, but was the only professor specializing in water law.  His expertise was sought after in the private sector; he has been special counsel to the Foulston Siefkin law firm in Wichita and Overland Park. He has advised countless clients on real-world issues relating to obtaining, changing, defending, and enforcing their water rights

John is recognized as the pre-eminent authority on Kansas water law, being widely considered “the expert in Kansas water law since the 1970s”.   Anyone researching virtually any aspect of Kansas water law has no doubt benefitted from the numerous law review articles and scholarly papers authored by Professor Peck.  All of his articles, if taken together, would provide a comprehensive treatment of all aspects of Kansas water law.  His expertise has taken John across the globe to consult and make presentations on an international level.  

In addition to his monumental contributions to water law jurisprudence, John was, above all, a highly regarded teacher.  His welcoming nature, good humor and easy manner made him a favorite among law students.  You always felt a bit more relaxed in his classroom because he never buttoned his shirt sleeves; those sleeves were always rolled up over his forearms like you were about to sit together after a hard day’s work and have a chat.  Many of us who were fortunate enough to have him as a water law teacher grew to know him as a mentor, as well.  Professor Peck treated his former students with respect and dignity and often provided opportunities to join him in authoring articles, thereby helping to boost the junior lawyer’s career.   

Not surprisingly, John earned many awards for teaching.  He was named a Connell Teaching Professor of Law in 1999, and he received both the Dean Frederick J. Moreau Award and the Immel Award for Teaching Excellence in 1998. In 2004, the university awarded him a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. In 2018, he was awarded the Clyde O. Martz Teaching Award by the trustees of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.  

John was also an active member of a number of professional associations, sharing his time and talents with other lawyers across the country.  For many years, John provided the water law chapter for the Kansas Bar Association’s annual update of the law, helping to keep water law practitioners up to speed on the latest developments.

After 41 years of teaching at KU Law, he retired in 2019.  

Throughout all aspects of his career, John demonstrated unfailing integrity, humility and compassion. His work has fundamentally shaped today’s interpretation of Kansas water law and regulation, and he has nearly single-handedly trained and influenced a generation of water law practitioners, a number of whom are in this room. 

Categories
Conservation Policy

Governor’s Water Conference, Updated State Water Plan, more

In this issue, we will catch up on a number of news stories of the last two months, including:

  • The 2022 Governor’s Water Conference; 
  • The release of the latest 5-year State Water Plan update;
  • An article which lauds Hays for its leadership in water conservation; and 
  • The USGS releases an updated and more comprehensive version of the water cycle.

Governor’s Water Conference, November 16-17, Manhattan

Governor’s Water Conference

For the first time since 2019, the Governor’s water conference will be in person; back in Manhattan after two years in Wichita. For more, see the Kansas Water Office’s website at:  https://kwo.ks.gov/news-events/governor’s-water-conference.  This is the 11th Annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas. As always, the conference is designed to highlight the latest policy and research developments of water issues in Kansas. It starts off with a plenary session including national speakers, but most of the conference is organized around a series of breakout sessions around a host of water themes including such things as: water conservation, water management, technology and crop varieties, reservoirs; municipal and industrial water; watersheds; High Plains and other aquifers; irrigation and water conservation; droughts, floods, and climate change; water transfers; water reuse; water and energy; water and health.  If you are interested in water, there should be something of interest here.

From my perspective, best of all, the conference includes a great opportunity to network with the who’s who of the water world in Kansas. 

KWRC is a conference sponsor and will have a booth. Please drop by to see us.

State Water Plan update 

The Kansas Water Authority (KWA) and Kansas Water Office (KWO) are charged with continuously maintaining and updating the Kansas Water Plan, with major updates to the plan typically occurring on a five-year cycle. To develop the Plan, KWA/KWO gathers input from a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, as well as grassroots input from its Regional Advisory Committees. The resulting Kansas Water Plan is a tool used by the State of Kansas to address current water resources issues and to plan for future needs. 

During August, the KWA approved the 2022 version for release to the public. The new Plan can be found at:  https://kwo.ks.gov/water-plan/water-plan. While the document is 261 pages long, I found it easy to scan to quickly access its major themes and the content of greatest interest to me.  If interested in water issues, I suggest you download it and peruse it.

Start with its 10-page executive summary, which is also an overview of the rest of the document. It includes:

  • A review of the 5 “Guiding Principles of the Kansas Water Plan” around which the Plan is written, which includes: 
    • Conserve and Extend the High Plains Aquifer,  
    • Secure, Protect and Restore our Kansas Reservoirs,
    • Improve the State’s Water Quality,
    • Reduce our Vulnerability to Extreme Events. and 
    • Increase Awareness of Kansas Water Resources.
  • An overview the Regional Planning Areas used by KWA/KWO in developing getting local input. 
  • Discussion of Water funding, including the State’s Water Plan fund.
  • A high-level section on the state’s management of water.

After review of the executive summary, you can spend time in the section(s) of greatest interest, be they guiding principles or geographic areas of particular interest. 

Hays lauded for its leadership in water conservation

An extensive article by High Plains Public Radio (https://www.hppr.org/hppr-news/2022-10-10/this-city-in-kansas-really-conserves-its-water-but-that-still-might-not-be-enough-to-survive investigates and highlights water conservation efforts of Hays, Kansas. While there are many communities across the semi-arid High Plains impacted by poor water supply, Hays was — and is — the only city in Kansas with more than 15,000 residents but no sustainable source of water, being too far west for reliable rainfall and reservoirs and too far east to tap into the Ogallala aquifer. As a result, Hays has the most extensive program of water conservation in the state and has invested significantly in a decades-long quest for a sustainable water source today.  

One quote: “Thanks to decades of conservation efforts, Hays has become the California of Kansas — a place where thinking about your water use is a way of life. For now, it’s an outlier. But as climate change brings drier, hotter weather to Kansas, more cities may have to follow a similar path.

Read the article for much more.

“Not Your Childhood Water Cycle”, USGS releases an updated and more comprehensive version 

USGS Water Cycle Diagram

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water cycle diagram is used by hundreds of thousands of students in the United States and worldwide. The agency recently released a new diagram for the first time in more than 20 years, this time with humans as show-runners. Although people have long siphoned water from groundwater and diverted rivers into farm fields and industrial plants, the new diagram is the first time humans have been included in what was presented until now as a “natural” cycle. The change reflects the latest 20 years of research uncovering humanity’s central role in the cycle and how to communicate it visually. “We need to change how we think about these things to be able to live and use water sustainably for our future,” said Cee Nell, a data visualization specialist at the USGS VizLab, which designed the diagram. In addition to natural processes like ocean evaporation, precipitation over land, and runoff, the new diagram features grazing, urban runoff, domestic and industrial water use, and other human activities. Each label in the chart comes from data tracking the significant paths and pools of water worldwide. Read more at: https://eos.org/articles/not-your-childhood-water-cycle

Thanks to the Kansas Rural Water Association for allowing reprint of this article (https://www.krwa.net/enews).

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
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
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.