The Kansas Legislature will be dealing with water again this coming session. The good news is that none of their deliberations will be directly affecting water issues critical to our local groundwater management district - at least that we know about at this time. The games will begin January 14 when this esteemed body convenes for its 2013 Session.
The Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) legislation passed last year as a bright and shiny new authority for locals within GMDs to address groundwater supply problems is going to be looked at for expansion over the rest of the state. It seems we crafted something that has utility beyond the GMD boundaries. Our concern was that the current LEMA statute resides in the Groundwater Management District Act, so opening up this act to provide for LEMAs outside GMDs seemed risky. We are told that the state thinking is a completely separate bill located some other place than the GMD Act. This is an acceptable arrangement. Now the only worry is that the Legislature agrees and doesn't try to blend the two after getting the separate bill introduced.
Another issue will be amending the current Multi-year Flex Account (MYFA) law to make it more attractive for use - by allowing end-of-the-5-year-account balances to be carried forward into the next 5-year MYFA period. My only concern is that the more ability there is to use the full MYFA account, the less water conservation that will be achieved. I'm OK with some carry-over allowance, but not unreasonable quantities for too-lengthy of time-frames.
The last water issue to be considered is water for oil and gas operations. There are two schools of thought on this issue: 1) allow these as exempted water uses and hope they collectively don't break the local supply bank; or 2) require them to be obtained from existing water uses (in closed or over-appropriated areas) on the market (by offset) - so as to insure the local supply problems are not exacerbated by these new uses. The first is a state give-away while the second will be a little more expensive (money and time) for the industry. Perhaps both can be done by allowing a limited number of exempted rights in carefully defined areas, then requiring all subsequent needs to be offset through the market. Somehow I think the oil and gas industry will have a say in the approach settled on.
Well, these are the water issues that we feel fairly certain will be dealt with this year. As usual, there could be others as well. Heck, I'd not be surprised if they take up Missouri River transfers to Denver while they're at it. Of course, a terminus in Colby, Kansas seems MUCH more reasonable, affordable, politically do-able and a heck of a better idea!