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Quivira Water Issue Discussed at St. John Meeting

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By Lucky Kidd

 

ST. JOHN, Kan. — Representatives of communities in the Rattlesnake Creek basin met in St. John Monday afternoon to discuss a push to enforce the water rights of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which potentially could dramatically impact irrigation water usage in the basin.

Barton County Commissioner Tricia Schlessinger gave her fellow Commissioners a report on that meeting during their meeting Tuesday. From that session attendees were in agreement a coordination meeting should be arranged with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as provided for in federal law.

Kansas Natural Resources Coalition Director Tracey Barton provided an overview of policy coordination, land use policy, and a review of a letter drafted to Kansas Department of Agriculture Chief Engineer Earl Lewis on the issue.

Schlessinger said the group felt that if a group of cities and counties were to come together, a consultation meeting could be arranged. At this meeting, presentations could be given on the impact changes to permitted water use would have on local schools, cities, townships and counties and the devastation it would bring to their tax base.

There was also a discussion on home rule issues as they relate to the issue, and it was also noted Big Bend Groundwater Management District 5 should also be involved. They are having their annual meeting Feb. 15 in St. John, and this issue is expected to be raised during this meeting.

The meeting was organized by Pawnee County Commissioner and KNRC chair Bob Rein. Also represented at the meeting were county commissioners and other citizens from Barton, Kiowa, Pawnee, Pratt, Stafford, Reno and Rice Counties.