Tuesday, May 7, 2013

LEMAs Getting Attention in Kansas and Elsewhere

During the recent April and May board meetings here in GMD 4 the issue of how to continue addressing the district’s enhanced management protocol was discussed.  Recall that the first foray into sub basin enhanced management started looking at six high priority areas (HPAs), with HPA SD-6 eventually becoming the state's first Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA).  The discussions were about what to do with the remaining five HPAs now that the first one (SD-6) has been completed.  
Long story short, the board is starting to generate the local interest in another HPA, but will hit it hard most likely this Fall - after farming season is completed.  Whether or not we undertake our second LEMA depends on the public response in the selected HPA.
In other LEMA efforts, the Western Kansas GMD 1 (Scott City) has also begun public discussions on the possibility of a LEMA in their GMD.  Thus far they have conducted five public meetings (1 per county) and are working through their second set.  They are considering the option of 1, district-wide LEMA (with and without regional variations), and are also discussing a formal voting procedure in the process.
The Southwest Kansas GMD 3 (Garden City) has also begun some preliminary public discussions on the potential use of LEMAs in their district, conducting several County meetings earlier this year.  At this time they are conducting several sub-group meetings within interested Counties who want to continue the dialog and are in the process of scheduling the remaining County meetings. 
By design, LEMAs were legislated initially only for the GMD areas because there was already a governance and funding mechanism in place, and a local groundwater management plan to build off of.  The state quickly recognized the potential of LEMAs (as did several non-GMD area leaders with water issues) and a bill was introduced in the 2013 session that would authorize "Agreed Local Management Areas" (ALMAs) - essentially identical to LEMAs, but putting the County Commissioners in the role of the GMDs in non-GMD areas.  This bill  did not get out of committee but will likely be discussed further. 
I expected a certain level of interest in Kansas, but I did not expect the coverage our Kansas LEMA has been getting elsewhere.  First it popped up on Twitter with a handful of water folks re-tweeting the SD-6 efforts.  Then the Circle of Blue (Pacific Institute) did a story on the effort that made some blogs and twitter again.  And finally, just two days ago I got a call from a Wisconsin irrigator who was interested in forming a local GMD in that state.  Who knows, maybe LEMAs are destined for broader areas than local enhanced management ones.

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