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.