As reported previously (see https://kwrconsulting.com/gmd-groundwater/gmd-1s-proposed-four-county-lema-%ef%bf%bc/), the 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 in about one-half of the irrigation wells no longer being used. Despite reductions in use, the aquifer continues to decline. To extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer within GMD 1, the GMD 1 Board first developed the Wichita County Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA), implemented starting in 2021, and on July 1, 2022, requested the Chief Engineer initiate proceedings for its proposed “Four County” LEMA to cover the rest of the district.
See the article cited above for a description of the LEMA tool generally, as well as specifics for GMD’s proposed Four County LEMA. In short, the article covered the following:
- The GMD Act was amended in 2012 to allow GMDs to develop a specific proposal for reducing groundwater declines in all or parts of their District as Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and to have that proposal considered for adoption by DWR’s Chief Engineer via two public hearings. 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.
- After careful consideration, including significant public input, GMD 1 developed its Four County LEMA to cover the rest of the District. Required reductions, designed to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer within the District, would vary from 0 to 25%, with larger reductions for larger wateruse and lesser reductions for smaller wateruse. 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.
Initial public hearing to consider the GMD 1’s Four County LEMA Plan
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.”
After notice required by the LEMA statute, an initial public hearing in the matter was held on October 17, 2022, and, on December 21, 2022, the chief engineer issued an order finding that the evidence presented at the initial public hearing satisfied the relevant criteria set forth in K.S.A. 82a-1041. See DWR’s web page related to the proposed LEMA at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/local-enhanced-management-areas/gmd1-four-county-lema
Specifically, the hearing was required to resolve the following:
a. Whether one or more of the circumstances specified in K.S.A. 82a-1036(a) through (d), and amendments thereto, exist;
b. Whether the public interest of K.S.A. 82a-1020, and amendments thereto, requires that one or more corrective control provisions be adopted; and
c. Whether the geographic boundaries are reasonable.
In his order, Chief Engineer Earl Lewis, stated that he found, based on substantial, competent evidence, that all of the above were found to be true for the proposed LEMA. The Chief Engineer’s order, including its summary of the evidence considered and findings of fact and law, is posted at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/docs/default-source/dwr-water-appropriation-documents/four-county-lema-findings-and-order.pdf?sfvrsn=10ba98c1_0.
As a result, the Chief Engineer further ordered that a second hearing to consider the designation of the Four County LEMA would be held.
Second Hearing on Feb 2 considers whether the LEMA Plan should be adopted
Notice of the second hearing was sent to all water right holders within the proposed LEMA and other effected parties, a copy of which is available at the link above.
The hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. central time on February 2, 2022 at the Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, 212 E. 5th Street, Scott City, Kansas.
The hearing will determine whether the proposed LEMA should be designated and if the corrective controls proposed in the LEMA Management Plan shall be accepted, rejected, or if modifications to the plan should be proposed.
For more information
In addition to DWR’s web site noted, additional information can be found on GMD 1’s web site at https://www.gmd1.org/lema/, which 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.