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.