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.
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.
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
- 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.