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Minutes for SB194 - Committee on Agriculture

Short Title

Amending groundwater management district water user charges.

Minutes Content for Mon, Mar 5, 2018

Chair Hoffman opened the hearing on SB194 at 3:33pm.

Kyle Hamilton, Assistant Revisor, Office of The Revisor of Statutes, provided an overview of SB194 and the statutes that it affects.  (Attachment 1)

PROPONENTS

Tim Boese, Manager, Equus Beds Groundwater Management District 2, appeared before the Committee in support of SB194. (Attachment 2)   This bill seeks to revise a 16 year old law and increase the statutory water assessment cap.  The water assessment cap was last raised by approved legislation in 2002 and the land assessment cap was not changed at that time.  SB194 as amended and passed by the Senate proposes to increase the water assessment cap to $2.00 per acre foot for all groundwater users, eliminate the in-district and out-of-district water assessment rate cap differential, maintain the current ability for water users to file verified claims, and leave the land assessment cap at $0.05 per acre.  The current language addresses the concerns and opposition expressed by some entities at the March 20, 2017, Senate hearing for SB194 and represent compromise language that address the District's need for increased revenue.

In addition to maintaining the Districts' current level of aquifer management projects, programs and customer service activities, the legislation would allow the District the ability to generate funds for projects in the District identified in the Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas and the goals and action items identified by the Equus-Walnut Regional Advisory Committee.

Jeff Winter, Board President, Equus Beds Groundwater Management District 2, appeared before the Committee in support of SB194.  (Attachment 3)   The legislation will provide the Equus Beds District with the financial resources to properly manage and preserve this vital aquifer. The District plays a critical role in providing agricultural producers and other water users information about the aquifer, groundwater availability, proper water well plugging procedures, proper water meter installation, maintenance and repair, water laws and regulations, and water quality data. District staff processes approximately 1,500 to 2,500 customer service requests annually, most of which are from agricultural water users and landowners.

If the legislation is not successful, the Equus Beds District will soon be forced to eliminate a number of groundwater management and monitoring programs, public education activities, and customer services. The elimination of such programs, activities and services will place the aquifer at risk and reduce the amount of information and customer service normally provided to District water users and the public. Additionally, the District's current financial situation based on the current water assessment cap will make it impossible for the District to undertake any additional programs or projects that may be needed for the proper management of the aquifer.

Sean M. Miller, Capitol Strategies, on behalf of Groundwater Management Districts 1, 3, & 4, appeared before the Committee in support of SB194.  (Attachment 4)   After the Senate hearing on SB194 last year stakeholders, notably the City of Wichita and Equus Beds GMD 2, worked through the summer to achieve a reasonable compromise on this issue. The original language of this bill contained three moving parts, increasing assessment caps for water used in-district, increased caps for water transported for use out-of-district, and an increase in the per acre assessment on land within the district. The amended language being provided to the committee today eliminates the differential between in-district and out-of-district use, increases the assessment cap on all water from $1 to $2 per acre foot, and makes no changes to the current statutory land assessment cap of $0.05 per acre.

Written only testimony in support of SB194 was received from  

    Susan Metzger, Assistant Secretary, Kansas Department of Agriculture (Attachment 5)

    Orrin Feril, Groundwater Management District 5 (Attachment 6)

    Joseph T. Pajor, Deputy Director, Department of Public Works & Utilities, City of Wichita KS (Attachment 7)

    Ken Askren, Kansas Farm Bureau (Attachment 8)

The proponents stood for questions from the Committee.

There were no opponents/neutrals of SB194.

The hearing on SB194 was closed at 4:07pm.