Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee Meeting 3

The third meeting of the OAAC was held today in Colby, KS.  First up was continuation of discussion on the water right abandonment issue. There were two statutory amendment versions discussed last meeting - a simple change and a more involved change allowing the GMDs to individually address abandonment issues.  Still controversial, there was a lot of discussion, but in the end, the simpler version (described here) was adopted - with several votes cast in opposition to the adoption motion.

The developing LEMA statute was discussed next.  While a current draft of the proposed language had been provided to the committee, still more recent changes were also covered.  In the end, the committee suggested 4 additional changes:  1)  the language currently in the proposed regulation describing the minimum standards that any proposal must meet to begin the process should be moved to the statute; 2) the required newspaper legal notice of the LEMA hearings should specify the use of a local County newspaper wherein the LEMA will be designated; 3) the option of the chief engineer to reject the proposal after hearings should include a requirement that the reasons for the rejection be specified and sent to the GMD with the notice of rejection; and 4) more specifics regarding the dual hearing process envisioned should be incorporated in the statutes.  These were acceptable suggestions that did not change the concept of the proposal and were to be added to the final draft to be acted on at the next meeting.

The committee next turned to the multi-year flex account (MFA) issues.  DWR explained the current MFA and presented several ideas being considered for improvements.  The agency was leaning toward the use of net irrigation data to determine the quantity of water to allow in the MFA.  DWR asked the committee to support upcoming legislation improving this program when it is developed.  The committee indicated that the MFA could be a good tool for producers and they looked forward to considering the final draft of this legislation.

Next was discussion on water banking.  The current water banking act and the operations of the only bank organized under them was covered.  The committee agreed that some form of water banking would be another good tool for producers and supported the broadening of the water banking opportunities in western Kansas.  The Kansas Water Office was asked to put more detail in a proposal.

These were the only decision items taken up by the committee.  The next meeting was set for October 13, 2011 in Garden City, KS to begin at 9:00 AM.  The location will be announced later.

These meetings are really hard to summarize because so much discussion is held - ranging over many different concepts and ideas.  To cover all the discussion would take considerable space, and since 90% of these ideas  don't receive any action, it's hard to justify the space - no matter how interesting all this discussion is.  So, rather than relying on my limited (lame?) summaries, perhaps you should start attending the meetings yourself.  They are open. And another way to track them if you're interested is to read the official minutes and see most of the handout materials, etc., which are all posted on the KWO Website.

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