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Moran Speaks Out on Quivira NWR Water Issues

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By Lucky Kidd

 

CENTRAL KANSAS Water issues in central Kansas continue to heat up after the US Fish and Wildlife Service filed an application with the Kansas Division of Natural Resources to enforce its senior water right in the Rattlesnake Creek basin for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which could curtail if not eliminate irrigation usage for hundreds of central Kansas farmers.

US Senator Jerry Moran spoke with Ad Astra News Thursday and said this move was made despite work on voluntary measures involving a memorandum of agreement between USFWS and Big Bend Groundwater Management District 5.

“We were trying to find a way through this memorandum that there would be some cooperation with the groundwater management district to some things, including voluntary conservation, elimination of the ends on irrigation equipment, and augmentation,” Moran said, which would bring in water from another area for Quivira.

Work on those measures had been slowed by a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and other studies. FWS filed their petition without any notice to anyone else involved in the matter. As for why this step was taken, Moran said he was told by the FWS director this was done to, “prod the process along.”

If the director of the Division of Water Resources rules in favor of FWS, the economic impact on central Kansas could be in excess of one billion dollars, with Stafford County taking the brunt of it. Moran said his hope is that FWS would withdraw their request and work with local representatives on a solution that would not be so damaging.

The water issue also came up at Tuesday’s Barton County Commission meeting, where Commissioner Tricia Schlessiger said this could potentially be regionally devastating, not just for Stafford County. Schlessiger said the Kansas Bankers Association is also getting involved in this issue because of the potential impact on property values.

Barton County Commission Chair Shawn Hutchinson suggested a meeting be arranged with Stafford County officials to discuss working together on this issue.