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.
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.