Categories
LEMA

Northwest Kansas LEMA renewal hearings, July 26-27

Creation of the LEMA tool, 2012

The state’s Groundwater Management District (GMD) Act was amended in 2012 to allow for the creation of Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs).  Much of the impetus for the amendments was from a group of waterusers in Sheridan County of northwest Kansas who wanted to reduce use in their area by 20% to reduce groundwater declines and extend the life of their aquifer but did not trust the process in place at the time to accomplish this: Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs). The reason was simple: under the IGUCA process, the Chief Engineer makes the decision of what to do to address the groundwater decline problem, not the locals. In response, the manager of GMD 4 outlined an alternative process that works with Kansas broader water law, but allows the GMD to develop a wateruse reduction plan for the Chief Engineer to consider via two hearings. With the support of state agencies and others (I as Chief Engineer at the time helped to draft the bill and testified in its support), the LEMA provisions were passed.   

The state’s first LEMA created, 2013 

With the legislation passed, Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 immediately went to work with its Sheridan County stakeholders to develop a LEMA proposal to implement a 20% reduction in use for the 100 square mile area and its 200 water rights. After the required two public hearings, the Sheridan-6 LEMA was created for the 5-years of 2013-2017.  In those five years, they reduced significantly more than their 20%; reducing use approximately 35% instead. In 2017, a new set of hearings was held, which extended the LEMA for the years 2018-2022.

Geographic overview of the current LEMAs

The map below provides a bit of context for this first LEMA and the subsequent LEMAs (and one more that is in process). The brown areas show lands covered by the state’s 5 Groundwater Management Districts (Western Kansas No. 1; Equus Beds No. 2, Southwest Kansas No. 3, Northwest Kansas No. 4, and Big Bend No. 5) that overlie Kansas major Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer of western and south-central Kansas.  The Sheridan (or SD-6) LEMA is the orange-shaded area within northwest Kansas. The yellow-shaded area is the Northwest Kansas GMD 4’s “District-wide” LEMA discussed next. The green-shaded area is the Wichita County LEMA of Western Kansas GMD 1. Not shown but in progress is GMD 1’s Four County LEMA which is proposed to cover the portions of Lane, Scott, Greeley and Wallace counties within GMD 1. 

The state’s second LEMA, Northwest Kansas’ District-wide LEMA, 2017

The success of this first, localized LEMA, led Northwest Kansas GMD 4, in 2017, to develop a proposal for a District-wide LEMA. This second LEMA has important differences from the Sheridan LEMA, principally its much more significant geographic scope and the resulting diversity in the rate of water levels declines that are being experienced. Below is a map from the Kansas Geological Survey’s (KGS) High Plains Atlas showing this diversity of water level declines in the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer over the last 20 years (with blue areas increasing and the light green areas experiencing small declines). For reference, the Sheridan LEMA is shown with a red border, the GMD 4’s “District-wide” LEMA is the gray-shaded area of northwest Kansas.

To address this diversity in water level declines, GMD 4 proposed allocations for this LEMA which are more restrictive in areas of higher declines (the yellow areas) and less restrictive in areas of lower declines. 

While its water use reduction goals are not as restrictive of the Sheridan LEMA, this LEMA puts in place an important framework for on-going actions by the GMD, again with more focused action in the areas of the most significant declines. After two hearings required by the LEMA process in 2017,  GMD 4’s LEMA plan was amended to remove areas of no or very limited decline, but was otherwise adopted as proposed for the years 2018-2022.  This LEMA was opposed by some of the local waterusers both at the second LEMA hearing as well as in the Gove County District Court, but was ultimately upheld.  

GMD 4 LEMA renewal hearings, July 26 & 27 

Both the Sheridan LEMA and the GMD 4 LEMA (the new name for their “District-wide” LEMA as it does not cover the areas of low and no decline) expire at the end of 2022, and must be renewed for the coming 5-years, 2023-27.  Based on the work of the GMD’s advisory committees and the action by its Board, both LEMAs are proposed to continue on essentially the same terms as the previous five years (with a few tweaks to improve their administration). 

The Sheridan 6 LEMA hearing will be Tuesday, July 26, 2022, 2:00 p.m. at the Sheridan County Courthouse, 926 9th Street in Hoxie.

The GMD 4 LEMA hearing will be Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 10:00 a.m. at the City Limits Convention Center, 2227 S. Range Avenue in Colby.

Links for more information: 

Upcoming KWRC News articles: 

  • GMD 1’s Four County LEMA (submitted to the Chief Engineer on July 1; more at: https://www.gmd1.org/)
  • Kansas Water Authority Water Policy Discussion, Aug. 10, Salina
  • Hays-Russell Change Applications and Water Transfer Process
  • Kansas Legislature: next steps on water 
Categories
KDA-DWR LEMA Water Rights

KWRC January 2021 Water Update

The 2020 was pretty slow in the water world. The pace seems to be picking up in 2021. Here are select
stories from January.

Chief Engineer Approves Wichita County LEMA Plan

On December 30, 2020, KDA-DWR’s new
Chief Engineer, Earl Lewis, issued an “order of decision” approving a Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) plan implementing wateruse reductions for all
irrigation water rights in Wichita County within the boundaries of Western Kansas Groundwater
Management District (GMD) No. 1. The LEMA Plan was developed and requested by GMD 1 to reduce
irrigation wateruse by approx. 15% for the next 5 years to extend the life of the local aquifer.

This order is the first of two orders required to implement the Wichita County LEMA. The order was based on an extensive public process. In it, the Chief Engineer found that the LEMA plan meets the state law’s requirements and that the ordered reductions are necessary for the public interest. It is expected that in early February, the second order, an “order of designation”, will be issued, putting the LEMA in effect for the years 2021-25.

The Wichita County LEMA will be the third LEMA in Kansas, following the notable successes achieved by
the LEMA plans in northwest Kansas, which showed that the reduction in water use slowed the rate of groundwater level decline, extending the life of the aquifer with little to no economic harm caused by
the reduction during the same period.

For more see: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/local-enhanced-management-areas/wichita-county-lema

Audubon of Kansas Files Federal Lawsuit to Restore Quivira Water Right

On January 15, 2021, the Audubon of Kansas (AOK) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas in an effort to restore the water right belonging to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge of southcentral Kansas. The Refuge is a wetland of international significance. AOK contends that the Quivira Refuge has suffered from a shortage of water for the last 3 decades, due to groundwater pumping upstream in the Rattlesnake Creek basin by irrigators, whose water rights are junior to that of the refuge. The basis for the lawsuit is a 2016 impairment investigation conducted by the KDA/DWR Chief Engineer which found that impairment is occurring and by the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act to protect its water right. During October 2019, the Chief Engineer had planned to begin reducing water use under junior water rights of the basin, but in an agreement that was brokered by Senator Jerry Moran, with concurrence of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that water right administration was postponed to allow more time to seek a remedy to the impairment. AOK’s lawsuit seeks an injunction, a declaratory judgment and an order of mandamus, to compel federal and state officials to do their duties as required by law.

For more:
https://www.audubonofkansas.org/aok-news.cfm?id=218
https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/impairment-complaints/quivira-
national-wildlife-refuge

Connie Owen Confirmed as Director of the Kansas Water Office

With former Kansas Water Office (KWO) Director Earl Lewis leaving the agency to become KDA-DWR’s chief engineer, the Governor announced her selection of Connie Owen, who had been serving as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority, to take his place as KWO Director. Ms. Own was confirmed by the Senate last week.

Governor Laura Kelly has announced that Dawn Buehler will serve as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority. Buehler’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The water authority advises the governor, the Legislature and the director of the Kansas Water Office (KWO) on water policy issues — including the approval of the Kansas Water Plan and revisions, federal contracts, administration regulations and legislation proposed by KWO.

For more information: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/home

KDA to Resume Public Hearing on Wichita ASR Project

On February 3, the KDA-DWR will resume the final stages of the formal phase of the public hearing process to consider the City of Wichita’s proposed modifications to Phase II of its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Project beginning. This is a continuation of proceedings that were initiated by the agency during 2018, in response to modifications requested by the city of Wichita. While the in-person hearing location will not be open to the public, the public will be able to view the proceedings virtually, using either Zoom or YouTube. The public is also invited to submit written comments and will be allowed to do so until Feb. 26.

For more information: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/WichitaASR

Upcoming meetings

  • Feb 2, Equus Beds GMD 2 Board monthly Board meeting, 9:30. Call their office at (316) 835-2224 for information or see http://gmd2.org/
  • Feb 11, Northwest Kansas GMD 4 will host both its monthly Board meeting at 9:00 AM and its annual meeting at 1:30, both at the City Limits Convention Center. For more information: http://gmd4.org/
  • Feb 11, Southwest Kansas GMD 3 Board meeting, 9:00 AM, http://www.gmd3.org/
  • Feb 17, Western Kansas GMD 1 Board meeting, 8:00 AM (CT). Check http://gmd1.org/ for updates.
  • Feb 18, Big Bend GMD 5 Board annual meeting at the Stafford County Annex located at 210 E Third Ave in St. John (just east of the Courthouse). The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m.
Categories
GMD Groundwater Ogallala

Upcoming Meetings, Recent Webinars and Court Decisions

Introduction: COVID is changing how we do water meetings, but not stopping them. One advantage is that most of them are more accessible than ever.  Below are details on upcoming meetings including:

  • A May 20 Kansas Water Authority meeting 
  • Upcoming meetings of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs), starting with this week’s meetings of GMD 3 and GMD 5 (we keep an updated list on our GMD page:  https://kwrconsulting.com/gmds/)

Also below are links to recent webinars on the Ogallala, available online for viewing. 

Finally, the courts continue to work. Below are updates on two recent decisions related to 1) GMD 4’s LEMA and 2) the Hays/Russell change applications. 

Upcoming Meetings

Recent Webinars

  • Status of the Ogallala Aquifer and GMD 4 conservation activities – on April 29, 2020, the Kansas Water Office hosted a webinar related to the Ogallala Aquifer. The webinar featured Brownie Wilson of the Kansas Geological Survey on the State of Ogallala Aquifer and Shannon Kenyon, Manager of the Northwest Kansas GMD 4, discussing their conservation efforts. The presentation can be accessed at: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/news-events/kwo-webinars.
  • The Weight of Water: Values, Civic Engagement, and Collaborative Groundwater Management on the U.S. High Plains, Stephan Lauer, KSU.  On May 1, Stephan presented findings of an Ogallala CAP funded project that looked at producers’ attitudes towards water conservation and some of the success stories of grassroots collaborative groundwater management (like the Wichita County Water Conservation Area) to determine how such efforts can be expanded. This presentation is fairly technical, being orientated toward researchers, but the link that follows, in addition to having the presentation, includes accessible summaries of the research for the rest of us: http://ogallalawater.org/producer-attitudes/.

Court Updates

  • Judicial Review, GMD 4 LEMA.  On June 13, 2018, a petition for judicial review of the Chief Engineer’s April 13, 2018 order of designation was filed in the Gove County District Court. On October 15, 2019, the Gove County District Court upheld the order as constitutional.  On November 11, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a motion with the Court requesting it alter or amend its decision. On April 20, 2020, the Gove County District Court declined.  See the Friesen vs. Barfield table at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/gmd4lema.  The next step could be an appeal to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
  • Judicial Review, Hays R9 change application approval. On March 27, 2019, the chief engineer contingently approved the change applications of the cities of Hays and Russell to convert the irrigation rights of the R9 Ranch in Edwards County to municipal use for the cities. On May 29, 2019, WaterPACK filed a petition for judicial review in Edwards County District Court.  Over recent months, the Court and parties have been working principally through issues related to discovery. On April 27, 2020 the Court ruled on the parties’ motions and pleadings in this regard. With this done, the Court has provided the parties with a schedule that will have the remaining pleadings complete on August 17, 2020.  See https://agriculture.ks.gov/HaysR9

Categories
LEMA

GMD 1 Submits Wichita County LEMA Plan to the Chief Engineer

After months of considerations, on March 26 the Board of Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1) formally submitted a plan for a Local Enhanced Management Area for Wichita County to the Chief Engineer for consideration. Details of the plan can be found on GMD 1’s website at: http://gmd1.org/lema.html

Background

Wichita County is one of the most depleted counties of the Ogallala, with an average of approx. 20 feet of remaining saturated thickness. However, use of water from the Ogallala is still a very important part of the local economy, for not only irrigation but also high value animal agriculture.

Wichita County has a very active wateruser community seeking to double the life of their aquifer through conserving today. During 2016-2017, a Wichita County steering committee worked to develop a Water Conservation Area for the county wherein waterusers voluntarily enroll, committing to use less and gaining significant flexibilities on the use of the limited water supply. Approximately 20% of irrigated acres are enrolled in the plan. The WCA plan can be found at: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/wca/wichita-county-wca.

GMD Action

For the last two years, the Wichita County WCA steering committee has been working with the Board of GMD 1 to develop a LEMA for the county. LEMAs can only be adopted via a request by the local GMD. Last week’s action by the GMD 1 board moves GMD 1’s LEMA plan to consideration via a two hearing process by the Chief Engineer to determine if the LEMA should be adopted. If so, it would require all irrigation waterusers of the county to conserve, although at a lesser rate than those in the WCA.

In summary, under the LEMA plan, all irrigation users would be required to reduce recent historic use by 25% for the years 2021-2025, after giving consideration for past voluntary conservation via an appeal process.

The allocations would be provided over the 5 year period for each combined well unit. The website above has a more complete summary of provisions, as well as proposed allocations for each water right in the county.

Next Steps

From here, the Chief Engineer will review the plan to insure it is acceptable for the hearing process, and if so, will schedule the first of two required public hearings to consider whether the LEMA plan should be adopted. While statute requires these hearings be held “as soon as is practicable,” it is unclear under the current context, when this will occur.

More information on LEMA can be found on KDA-DWR’s website at: http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema