Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee Meeting 1

Well, the 21 member OAAC met earlier today in Dodge City, Kansas.  It was an impressive beginning with 19 of the 21 appointed members in attendance - along with 4 Kansas Legislators, 2 state agency directors, 4 groundwater management district managers and about a dozen other, interested folks.  The agenda was true to form with the two potential statutory changes getting discussed:  a) IGUCAs; and b) "use it or lose it" (water right abandonments).

The water right abandonments issue took most of the time as it was clearly the more complex and far-reaching issue. In the end, the committee passed a motion that the current statute KSA 82a-718 (d) be amended such that the requirement of maintaining the diversion works for non-used water rights in closed areas of the state be eliminated.  Basically, this means that in closed areas of the state non-use of a water right is lawfully due and sufficient cause for non-use - period.  This was done even though everyone understood that it completely eliminated any ability of the state to abandon a water right and forfeit it it back to the public domain.  Said another way, the only possibility of any water right abandonment in closed areas of the state would be through voluntary abandonment by the water right owner.  The motion passed 16 for and three against.  It was also agreed that considering additional GMD authority to address this issue through their management programs should be re-discussed at a later time.

The IGUCA issue was in concept a law change allowing a GMD to submit a complete enhanced management proposal to the chief engineer simultaneously with its IGUCA request.  Under these circumstances, the substantive public hearing required by current law would be limited to the GMD/local proposal.  Following the hearing, the chief engineer would have only one of 3 options:  a)  approve the proposal in its entirety and generate the IGUCA order; b) close the hearing and reject the proposal;  or c) continue the hearing and return the proposal to the GMD/locals for corrections with cites for every instance where it is not consistent with state law or the GMD management program, or, falls short of the requirements of a minimal management proposal.  Following discussion, and questions, a motion was unanimously passed to support this statutory change as presented, with a suggestion that some time constraints be considered for the chief engineer's post-hearing decision.

[UPDATE:  The above IGUCA discussion eventually became the Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) concept.  This was very early discussion before the concept even had a name.] 

Discussion next turned to possible issues for the next meeting.  One of the issues suggested was the prior appropriation system of water rights itself - the most fundamental concept of Kansas water law.  As noted before in this blog, I never heard this mentioned at the Governor's Summit, but because the state characterized several comments into the common topic of:  "Examine all water laws and regulations", this  and any other law or regulation now seems to be fair game.  Was this idea really sported at the Summit, or did the state take too liberal poetic license with the process?

Anyway, the next meeting is set for August 23 - most likely in Scott City.  The Farm Bill implications to, and potentials for water conservation in Kansas will be one of the agenda items - in preparation for Senator Pat Roberts' field hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill in Wichita, KS on August 25.  More later.

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