Judicial Review of GMD 4’s district-wide LEMA fully briefed

On June 13, 2018, a petition for judicial review of the GMD 4 District-wide Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) orders was filed in Gove County District Court along with a notice disputing the validity of K.S.A. 82a-1041 (the LEMA statutory provisions).  The case has now been fully briefed by the parties and is awaiting a decision by the Court. Copies of the briefs are available on KDA’s web site in the table titled Friesen vs. Barfield at:  https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/GMD4LEMA.

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Recent Studies provide more evidence on Sheridan 6 LEMA success

The Sheridan 6 Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) is the state’s longest existing LEMA, initially approved for the 5-year period 2013-2017, and subsequently approved for the period 2018-2022.  Two recent studies on the LEMA have been added to KDA-DWR web page devoted to the LEMA at: www.agriculture.ks.gov/SD6LEMA.

Dr. Golden of KSU issued his final report, “Monitoring the Impacts of Sheridan County 6 Local Enhanced Management Area,” dated 11/15/2018. The study found the irrigated area within the LEMA was largely unchanged despite the significantly reduced wateruse with some changes in cropping, although corn is still dominate. The study included voluntary reporting on farm income with a limited number of responses. The responses received indicate irrigation operations remain as profitable as before, apparently due to reduced input costs.  Dr. Golden also cites that the fact that the producers asked for the LEMA to be extended as evidence of continued profitability.

A group of Michigan State researchers along with KU’s Jim Bulter, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, had their research report titled “Quantifying irrigation adaptation strategies in response to stakeholder-driven groundwater management in the US High Plains Aquifer” published last month in Environmental Research Letters.  Below are a few quotes from the paper’s abstract:

  • Socio-ecological systems research suggests that management of common pool resources like groundwater would benefit from localized approaches that combine self-organization along with active monitoring.
  • Here, we assessed the efficacy of the first LEMA implemented from 2013 to 2017 using a causal impact methodology based on Bayesian structural time series that is new to agrohydrology.
  • Compared to control scenarios, we found that the LEMA reduced water use by 31% over the five-year period, with early indications of stabilizing groundwater levels.
  • We found that farmers were able to largely maintain irrigated area and achieved the majority of pumping reductions (72%) from improvements in irrigation efficiency, followed by expansion of crops with lower water demand (19%).
  • The results of this analysis demonstrate that conservation programs that are irrigator driven with regulatory oversight can provide a path toward sustainability in stressed aquifers.

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Big Blue River Compact Meeting to Be Held May 15, 2019

The 46th annual meeting of the Kansas–Nebraska Big Blue River Compact Administration will be held in room 124 at the Kansas Department of Agriculture, 1320 Research Park Drive in Manhattan, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. Anyone interested in water-related activities within the Big Blue and Little Blue River Basins in Kansas and Nebraska is encouraged to attend.   

The Kansas–Nebraska Big Blue River Compact was entered into in 1971. The purpose of the compact is to promote interstate comity, to achieve equitable apportionment of the waters of the Big Blue River Basin and promote the orderly development thereof, and to encourage an active pollution abatement program in each state.  

The Compact Administration is composed of a federally appointed Compact Chairman, currently W. Don Nelson of Lincoln, Nebraska; two state appointed representatives: David Barfield of the Kansas Department of Agriculture–Division of Water Resources and Gordon “Jeff” Fassett of th Nebraska Department of Natural Resources; and two citizen representatives: Sharon Schwartz of Washington, Kansas, and Larry Moore of Aurora, Nebraska.  

Questions about the meeting can be addressed to Chris Beightel, program manager for water management services at KDA–DWR, at 785-564-6670 or Chris.Beightel@kda.ks.gov. Additional information about the Big Blue River Compact and the annual meeting can be found on the KDA website at agriculture.ks.gov/big-blue-compact.

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Secretary Beam Declines Review of the Hays Russell Contingent Change Approvals

Following the Chief Engineer’s March 28, 2019 contingent approvals of water right change applications submitted by the cities of Hays and Russell to convert the irrigation rights of the R9 Ranch in Edwards County to municipal use for the cities, six requests for administrative review were received by Secretary of Agriculture Michael Beam within the time allowed.

On April 24 and April 29, Secretary Beam declined administrative review for all six requests for review of the chief engineer’s order. Those seeking administrative review have 30 days to request judicial review.  If none is received, the water transfer process will begin.  

Copies of the requests, the Secretary’s orders, and more are on DWR’s website at: www.agriculture.ks.gov/HaysR9

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Wichita ASR Prehearing Order Issued

On May 1, 2019 Hearing Officer Connie Owen issued an order directing that oral arguments on the eight remaining motions by the parties will be heard May 28, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at the Harvey County Courthouse in Newton. Details on the who the parties are and the motions that will be argued are laid out in the order.

The evidentiary hearing on the merits of Wichita’s proposed changes to its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project issues has not yet been set pending securing the location, but it appears likely that the dates will be in late September 2019.

KDA-DWR continues to update our Wichita ASR page with information regarding the City of Wichita’s proposal, background information, and the information related to the current hearing process.

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Hays Russell R9 Ranch change applications contingently approved

On March 27, 2019, the chief engineer contingently approved the change applications submitted by the cities of Hays and Russell to convert the irrigation rights of the R9 Ranch in Edwards County to municipal use for the cities. The documents approving the water right changes include a 53-page master order as well as 32 individual change approvals and other attachments and exhibits.  The master order includes the Chief Engineer’s summary and review of the pertinent public input received regarding the change application decision.

Documents posted on KDA-DWR web site related to this action (https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/HaysR9) include the chief engineer’s transmittal letter, the final Master Order contingently approving the cities’ change applications, a one-page summary of the matter, and more. Unless the order is challenged, the next step will be initiation of the water transfer proceeding.

Background

The City of Hays purchased the approximately 7,000-acre R9 Ranch and its thirty water rights in southwestern Edwards County in 1995 with the intention of someday using the water as part of the Cities of Hays and Russell’s water supply.

During June 2015, the Cities of Hays and Russell (Cities) submitted applications to KDA-DWR to change the use made of water from irrigation to municipal use for the R9 Ranch water rights. As these proposed changes envision moving greater than 2,000 acre-feet more than 35 miles, during January 2016, the Cities submitted an application to transfer water from Edwards County to the Cities pursuant to the Water Transfer Act (K.S.A. 82a-1501, et seq.). The water transfer proceeding is not initiated until the transfer application is complete, which includes the contingent approval of change applications.

During May 2018, a draft proposed master order and exhibits were transmitted to GMD5 for its review and posted on this website, along with the change applications and amendments. A public information meeting was held on June 21, 2018 to discuss the applications. GMD5 provided a recommendation on August 28, which was supplemented on September 14; WaterPACK provided additional responses on August 21 and 13; and the cities provided responses on September 14 and 18.

Approval provisions

The irrigation rights of the R9 Ranch include 32 water rights covering 56 points of diversion with a total authorized quantity of 7647 acre-feet/year for irrigation. Because only the consumptive use portion of the water rights can be changed from irrigation use to municipal use, the total authorized quantity is being contingently reduced to a maximum of 6,756.8 acre-feet/year.  In addition, the Chief Engineer has imposed a 10-year rolling aggregate limitation of 48,000 acre-feet (an average of 4,800 acre-feet/year), based on the reasonable long-term yield of the R9 Ranch water rights.  The master order includes prescribed reporting and monitoring requirements and also includes a delayed effective date, among other conditions. 

As a result of the public process, the following key revisions to the initial proposed approval documents were made by the Chief Engineer and incorporated into the issued Master Order: provisions that would have allowed the 10-year rolling aggregate limitation potentially to be dropped in the future were removed; a provision was added that requires a public hearing prior to any increase of the 10-yearrolling aggregate limitation; a water quality component was added to the Cities’ monitoring plan; and a minor error in the cities’ groundwater modeling was identified and corrected.

Next step

The next step is to initiate the water transfer proceedings under the Water Transfer Act. The water transfer panel will consist of the Chief Engineer, the Director of the Kansas Water Office, and the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment or the Director of the Division of Environment. A hearing officer will be appointed who will hear testimony. At issue at the hearing will be whether it is in the state’s overall best interest to allow the Cities’ requested transfer of the water. The process of the water transfer proceedings is anticipated to take 1-  2 years.

Tags: HaysR9, changes, water transfer, StaffordFO, GMD5, StocktonFO

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