Summary of HB 2686

Brief Summary by David Barfield, KWRC
Last updated: 2/12/2022, 11:00 am
See also the Revisor’s summary of the bill

The mega water bill has arrived.  The bills page is at:  

The proposed legislation is at:

Based on the current calendar of the House Committee on Water (HCOW), Monday and Tuesday (2/14 and 2/15) will be briefings on the bill by the Revisor and Committee Leadership, respectively; then two days of hearings on Wednesday and Thursday; and possible action on the bill by the Committee on Friday.  

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.  The remaining section are mostly edits to existing statutes to confirm to the proposed legislations intent (and Revisor clean-ups).  Significant 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 to replace the Kansas Water Office, retaining its duties, powers and attributes.
New Section 4 – Division of Environment and Conservation to replace KDHE’s division of environment & KDA’s Division of Conservation, retaining their duties, powers and attributes.

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

  • Each 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). There also increased fees on p. 227 to municipal, industrial, and stockwater uses, increasing from $0.03/1000 gallons to $0.05/1000 gallons.
New Section 10 – Election of GMD District Board members changed to primary and general elections, starting in 2023 with all Board members being replaced; limits number to 9. See also Sec. 15-18.
New Section 11 – Eligibility for GMD Board members changed to any registered voter.
New Section 12 – Method to change in 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 by 1/1/2024; to conduct outreach to those areas, and to develop plans to address the concerns by 1/1/2026; if GMDs fail to develop plans, the CE is authorized to initiate IGUCA to reduce the rate of aquifer decline by 50%.

Sections 15-281 are mostly amendments to existing statutes but include the following:

  • Section 178 (p. 205-6) modifies the definition of dams to regulate road fill and low-head dams as stream obstructions.
  • Section 181 – Dam safety inspections to be done “under the direct supervision” of professional engineers.
  • Section 182 (p.209-210) adds civil penalties for violations of the stream obstruction act and adds a water structures emergency fund.
  • Section 206 (p. 227) increases “water protection fees” for municipal, industrial, and stock water use from the existing $0.03/1000 gallons to $0.05/1000 gallons.
  • Section 249-252 (p. 260-62) Orders of the Chief Engineer are final; other changes on Chief Engineer’s hearings to better conform 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 limited and has focused on an overview of the legislation and 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.