Sunday, April 3, 2011

Local Control with State Oversight?

I have been asked before how Kansas manages local control provided by the Kansas Legislature.  The local Groundwater Management Districts were newcomers to the water scene in the state when authorized in 1976, which had been managed and regulated by the division of water resources under the state engineer.

It begins with the Legislative Declaration contained in the GMD Act, which says:  
It is the policy of this act to preserve basic water use doctrine and to establish the right of local water users to determine their destiny with respect to the use of the groundwater insofar as it does not conflict with the basic laws and policies of the state of Kansas. It is, therefore, declared that in the public interest it is necessary and advisable to permit the establishment of groundwater management districts.
The GMD Act also says:
Before undertaking active management of the district the board shall prepare a management program. Upon completion of the management program the board shall transmit a copy to the chief engineer with a request for his or her approval. 
This would appear that the Chief Engineer has significant control over the local management programs.  But, this section of the act goes on to say:
The chief engineer shall examine and study the management program and, if he or she finds that it is compatible with article 7 of chapter 82a of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, and all acts amendatory thereof or supplemental thereto and any other state laws or policies, he or she shall approve it and notify the board of his or her action.
This added wording changes a lot in that the chief engineer's review of the local GMD's management plan is just to insure its consistency with the Kansas water appropriation act and other state laws.  Regardless of what the chief engineer feels about the plans of a GMD, as long as it's legal, he or she pretty much has to go along with it.

So, in a nutshell, this is how Kansas has structured its local control with state oversight - at least as far as the Management Plan goes.  As far as other influences the chief engineer can have over a GMD and its activities, I'd be lying if I said there were none.  The technical support the state can provide, or not provide, and many other subtle working items do factor in.  For these, it's the old fashioned "build a working relationship of trust and cooperation over years" and these will take care of themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment