January 26, 2012
The case for local enhanced management areas
Chief Engineer David Barfield spoke at the Southwest Kansas Irrigation Association conference on Saturday, Jan. 21. A significant portion of his presentation dealt with 2012 water resources related legislation. Of particular note is a significant change in the Groundwater Management District Act as proposed by Senate Bill 310, which would allow Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) to develop Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) to reduce water level decline rates within the Ogallala aquifer. While the proposal for LEMAs was recently made a high priority in the Governor’s legislative agenda to promote water conservation, grow the economy and create jobs in western Kansas, this concept has actually been under consideration for some time.
The process began in 2009, when Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 staff started working with water users to examine potential measures to reduce water use in six designated high priority areas (HPAs) where the groundwater table had declined excessively due to pumping. It was determined that a number of water right owners in at least one of these high priority areas were in favor of a shared reduction in water use to prolong their declining water supply and possibly avoid impairment claims that could lead to strict water right administration and curtailment of junior water rights. Many irrigators realize they can still profit from mutually reduced allocations, while leaving water for their future and children’s future. However, the Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGCUA) process, as currently set forth in the GMD Act does not provide stakeholders with a strong enough voice in the resulting reductions. The concern we hear is that the IGUCA process might result in unintended consequences with corrective controls that are much harsher or otherwise significantly different than those proposed or supported by local stakeholders.
A 2010 proposal in in Sheridan County (Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 - HPA 6) is the prime example. Irrigators in this area were very close to asking for a shared reduction in quantity based on 55” acre-inches over a 5 year allocation. Working with DWR in early 2011, GMD 4 asked the chief engineer to adopt regulations to enable the district to implement such management programs to reduce the rate of water use in their high-priority areas, subject to further input from district members and action by the district board. As part of the process for adopting new regulations, the Kansas Department of Agriculture submitted the proposed rules to the Attorney General Steve Six’s Office for review. The Attorney General’s Office’s response was that management programs that resemble an IGUCA must be implemented through the established IGUCA process set forth in the GMD Act. As a result, irrigators in HPA 6 elected not to move forward with their proposed water use reductions to avoid the IGUCA process.
What the LEMA bill provides is an alternate methodology for GMDs to ask the Chief Engineer for specific corrective controls in areas where groundwater levels are declining excessively, the rate of groundwater withdrawal exceeds the rate of groundwater recharge or other conditions exist that warrant reductions in water use to protect the long term water supply, without asking for an IGUCA. With the LEMA concept, GMD’s and stakeholders propose to the chief engineer their own specific corrective controls. The chief engineer then holds a hearing, which must focus solely on the locally proposed plan, to determine whether to accept the plan, reject the plan or send it back for modification. In other words, the local area is not guaranteed to get their plan approved, but they are guaranteed they won’t end up with a different plan they do not approve as a result. This allows the GMDs and stakeholders more say in what corrective controls would be used in order to realize the locally developed goals of conserving and extending the useful life of the Ogallala aquifer as intended by the GMD Act.
Senate Bill 310 is currently under consideration by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources which is expected to hold a hearing on this bill on Friday Feb. 3.
DWR staff attend Kansas Association of Watersheds annual meeting
Kansas’ Stream Mitigation Guidelines discussion was a highlight of the State Association of Kansas Watersheds (SAKW) 61st annual meeting—“Partnerships and Future Challenges— Jan. 19 and 20 in Topeka. Developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, these guidelines are used to evaluate stream impacts and mitigation proposals for new permit actions in the state for projects approved under Corps jurisdiction.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) Secretary Robin Jennison commended the guidelines but said it’s difficult to apply them in a state as diverse as Kansas. “Stream mitigation and wetlands are the premiere issues we are dealing with ecologically,” Jennison said. “They are carrying the day, right or wrong. That is the political landscape we find ourselves in today.”
In response to these guidelines, SAKW members passed a resolution to support efforts of the Kansas Water Office in cooperation with KDWPT to finalize a list of recommended changes to the guidelines that not only addresses mitigation costs but includes provisions to give credit to project benefits.
Agency reports on the first day included updates from the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and DWR Chief Engineer David Barfield.
“A lot of our legislative proposals are focused on groundwater conservation, and the headliner in our package is the Multi-Year Flex Accounts because of the drought,” Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said. Concluding with a mention of light detection and ranging (LiDAR), Streeter said, “Kansas has only 39 counties left that need it, and it has so much better elevation data. It’s unlimited in its potential in what we can do with it. In three years, we’ve covered 2/3 of the state.” More information about LiDAR can be found in the Sep. 2, 2010, edition of DWR Currents.
Right: Image of ground surface LiDAR showing the dam and surrounding area at Leavenworth County State Lake. Click to enlarge image.
Second day program topics addressed Grouse-Silver Creek Watershed, watershed contracting, and engineering services for watershed districts.
SAKW passed two additional resolutions, which supported:
- Legislation that removes fees for processing applications by landowners for tax exempt status of lands through donated easements for watershed district projects.
- Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation's FY 2013 budget request and the Division's request for appropriation language allowing the carryover of funds from the current fiscal year to FY 2013.
The full text of all three resolutions is available for download from the SAKW website.
(The link to the Kansas Stream Mitigation Guidelines was updated on Jan. 30, 2012.)
Staff news: Alicia Benson to leave DWR
Alicia Benson, Environmental Scientist III, will be leaving the Floodplain Management Unit to take on a supervisory position at Caterpillar Inc. where she had previously worked. Benson, who began working at DWR as a floodplain coordinating associate in November 2009, said, “It’s a new position managing 30 production employees in the fabrication department because Caterpillar has expanded so much recently.” Her new job site will be closer to the house she and husband Josh are building west of Wamego and offers a flexible schedule allowing Benson to spend more time with her children, Claire, 4, and Luke, who shared Benson’s work space after his April 29, 2010 birth until October. While at DWR, Benson received her Master’s in Business Administration in May 2011 from Baker University and applied that knowledge while writing outreach reports and business strategic plans as well as organizing Risk MAP open houses. Her final day will be Feb 2.
- Feb. 9: Big Bend GMD 5 Board Meeting
- Feb. 9: Southwest Kansas GMD 3 Board Meeting
- Feb. 14: Equus Beds GMD 2 Board Meeting
- Feb. 15: Kansas Dam Safety Conference
- Feb. 15: Northwest Kansas GMD 4 Annual Meeting
- Feb. 21: Western Kansas GMD 1 Board Meeting
- Feb. 29: Kansas Water Issues Forum (Wichita)
- Mar. 1: Kansas Water Issues Forum (Hays)
- Mar. 1: Basics of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
- Mar 27-29: 45th Annual KRWA Conference