Quivira public meetings and current status

KDA notice – During the week of September 30, the Chief Engineer sent all affected water users notice of the KDA-DWR plan to regulate water rights as part of the remedy of the impairment to the water right held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in south central Kansas on Rattlesnake Creek. The letters included summaries of water use for those water rights and a preview of what to expect from the anticipated administrative orders. The notice was sent to help water users prepare for the expected issuance of orders.

Public meetings – On Monday, October 21, 2019, KDA hosted two public meetings in St. John related to the proposed administrative orders (which are now NOT moving forward, see below). The two-hour meetings included informational presentations from KDA staff and a significant period of questions and answers. To access links to the slides and archives of the live stream videos of each session, see: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/Quivira.

Current status – Just prior to the meeting, on Friday, October 18, 2019, the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources (KDA-DWR) was informed that the United States Department of the Interior, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), wishes to work with the local leadership of the Rattlesnake Creek region to renew efforts to find a locally-driven solution to the impairment of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge operated by the Service before requesting action by KDA-DWR to protect their water right.

In Kansas, an impaired water right must file an annual request to secure water before administrative action will be taken to reduce water use by the junior water rights impacting the senior water right. The Service had previously filed a request to secure water for 2018 and 2019, but KDA-DWR had not taken any action on those requests as efforts to solve the impairment through voluntary efforts were ongoing.  Since 2016, KDA-DWR worked with the Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5 (GMD 5) to develop a remedy to the impairment. Despite many efforts, a solution has not yet been reached and negotiations to voluntarily solve the impairment broke down over the past year.

As the Dept. of Interior on behalf of the Service has stated their intention not to file a request to secure water at this time, the administrative orders will NOT be sent.

It is important to note that this does not change the science or the law regarding the water issues in the region. The Quivira water right is still being impaired, and any locally-driven solution will likely still need to involve an augmentation project and pumping reductions.

KDA-DWR encourages all water users to be actively involved with local leadership as they work together with the Service to find a solution to the impairment. KDA-DWR is hopeful a solution that fulfills the needs of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge will be found. However, if a solution is not found and the Service files a request to secure water in the future, state law requires that KDA-DWR take the appropriate action.

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Chief Engineer responds to Ag Organizations’ request to delay Quivira administrative orders

On Friday, September 20, 2019, Chief Engineer David Barfield replied to a letter from 10 agricultural and related organizations asking him to delay his plans to issue administrative orders related to Quivira for 2020 this fall as a first step in resolving the impairment. In his letter, he explained why he is moving ahead with the administrative orders, outlined steps being taken to provide water users with significant flexibility to use the allocations provided in the orders, and announced his decision to phase in orders over three years. 

The administrative orders will implement the first part of a three-part solution to the Quivira impairment consisting of: 1) limiting withdrawals across the basin to slow the ongoing growth of stream depletions, 2) the retirement or relocation of 4,400 acre-feet of use from the highest impact area near the stream to slow the growth of depletions in the shorter term, and 3) an augmentation project proposed by GMD 5. The second and third parts of the solution need to be developed by the basin over the next three years.

The letter announced a significant change in the Chief Engineer’s plan for the administrative orders, namely to phase in the orders over three years beginning in 2020 with junior water rights in Zone C (the area with a greater than 30% impact to the stream), then Zone B (greater than 20% impact) in 2021, and finally Zone A (greater than 10% impact) in 2022. See map attached to his letter.

KDA-DWR is working with local stakeholders to develop a Water Conservation Area (WCA) to allow for annual allocations in the orders to be pooled into multi-year allocations, moved between water rights, and with limited restrictions, transferred between water right owners enrolled in the WCA.

Notice of the specific allocations for each water right under the water administration plan will be provided to all water right owners and water use correspondence in the near future, with a public meeting in the effected within two weeks of the notices.

The Chief Engineer’s letter and a map showing the implementation areas is available https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/Quivira.

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Chief Engineer’s action on GMD 5 LEMA plan and path forward on Quivira Impairment

On July 30, 2019, Chief Engineer David Barfield provided a formal response to GMD No. 5’s Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) plan aimed to resolve the Quivira impairment, stating he was unable to move forward with their request to initiate proceedings to consider the plan as it failed to include measures sufficient to meet its stated goal and other statutory requirements. After nearly two years of work on the LEMA concept, KDA and GMD5 have been unable to agree on a LEMA plan that resolves the impairment. The Chief Engineer’s letter can be found here.

In his letter, Chief Engineer Barfield also announced his intention to develop administrative orders by approx. September 1, 2019, to be effective January 1, 2020, to implement water use reductions in the basin to begin addressing the Quivira impairment, and in particular, the ongoing declines in streamflows (see below) into the Refuge with its reductions in water quantity and water quality.  These orders are the first of a three-pronged solution to the impairment, providing initial action to remedy the impairment, while providing time for the Basin to develop the other two components:

  • A proposed augmentation project.
  • The retirement of 4400 acre-feet of use in the high-impact area (Zone D).

To maximize flexibility in use, DWR will work with local water users to develop a Water Conservation Area (WCA) to create multi-year allocations and allow movement of allocations between water rights.

While required water use reductions will vary among water users based on the seniority of their water rights (with older rights getting larger allocations) and their historic use, the reductions will average under 15% from long-term use.

A public meeting is anticipated during mid-September.

A map of the affected area is shown below.

More information related to this matter can be found on the following websites:

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Quivira/GMD 5 updates: GMD 5 public meeting / Congressmen write U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On August 27, GMD 5 held a public meeting on its Proposed Rattlesnake Creek / Quivira Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA). GMD 5 has updated its web site at https://gmd5.org/proposed-rsc-lema to include the materials presented at the meeting as well as a video recording of the presentations and Q &A session.

Both Kansas Senators as well as two Representatives have written the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking they provide technical assistance related to augmentation to support the basin’s efforts to find a remedy for the impairment.  The letter is posted on our web site at: http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/GMD5LEMA

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Response to Audubon’s letter on Quivira and feedback to GMD 5 LEMA plan posted

As reported earlier, on August 10, GMD 5 developed a new draft of its proposed LEMA plan to resolve the Quivira impairment complaint and on August 17, the Audubon of Kansas wrote a letter calling on both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Division to act immediately to remedy the impairment.  On KDA’s web site, we have posted our latest input to GMD 5 on their LEMA plan and a response to Audubon of Kansas on their request.  See  http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/Quivira and http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/GMD5LEMA

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