Tuesday, April 5, 2011

They Call Me "Institutional Memory" Now

Had to chuckle today when I got a call from my colleague in SW Kansas asking to access my institutional memory reserves.  Seems he has a case where an Oklahoma irrigator has filed for a new water right in Oklahoma just up against the Oklahoma / Kansas border.  The problem is that there is a municipal well and water right just a couple of hundred feet away in Kansas.  He wanted to know if I had ever run into this situation since our GMD extends to the Kansas / Colorado border (and of course since I've been doing this for 34 years now).

I pondered.  And I responded:  Back in about 1980 I suggested to the KS chief engineer that Kansas and Colorado and NW Kansas GMD 4 and Colorado Plains GMD work on a mutual well spacing agreement specifically to avert this kind of situation.  It didn't have to be anything hoity-toity - just a signed, 1-page agreement saying that each state would honor some well spacing distance from each others wells along the border.

WOW!  Word came back that such an agreement would be unconstitutional (U.S. Constitution - Article 1, Section 10:  No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, ..., enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State).  No, we weren't going there.

A few weeks later the Plains GMD and our GMD plotted all our wells within 2 miles of the state line and traded this information.  Upon a handshake we agreed to take into consideration each others' wells when processing new applications in each of our districts.  Turns out neither one of us ever had a new water right application close enough to the line to invoke our mutual (common sense) understanding, but I certainly was sincere about it.

But that story didn't help my Kansas friend at this point in time.  For his case, I suggested he contact the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and express as much concern as possible, as I was aware of no Kansas law that offers this kind of protection.  Turns out this was the exact advice he received from the Kansas Division of Water Resources.  Too bad states don't have a little latitude in cases like these - short of an interstate compact, that is.  And yes, I'm still chuckling as I hadn't thought of that escapade in many years.  Don't even know if today I could find the mapped wells they provided me so long ago.  Institutional memory my butt!

BTW - don't forget to join the 4 intrepid folks who have voted in my poll thus far.  I will remember these votes for at least several weeks!  Thanks.

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