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Ag Department develops intensive groundwater use control area regulations


Officials with the Kansas Department of Agriculture announced today that new regulations became final September 18 that govern the way intensive groundwater use control areas are established and to require that they be periodically reviewed.

"We developed the new regulations to codify the apparent consensus of the 2008 Legislature on procedural and review issues tied to intensive groundwater use control areas," said David Barfield, chief engineer of the department's division of water resources. "Legislation that would have accomplished the same changes didn't pass in 2008 due to disagreement on other provisions in the bill, so we're making the changes by adding the provisions to our regulations."

Intensive groundwater use control areas, or IGUCAs, are a groundwater management tool that work in conjunction with the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, and allow the chief engineer to identify flexible solutions to address groundwater decline and other water resource problems across an affected area. The new regulations define how proceedings to enact an IGUCA are to be conducted and the frequency at which an IGUCA is reviewed once it's established.

"A common recommendation we heard was the need to have an independent hearing officer determine whether an IGUCA should be established, so we have a new regulation to require it. The regulations also more fully define separate procedures for determining whether an IGUCA should be established and what the corrective control provisions should be. Both procedures give affected water rightholders and other interested parties more opportunity to provide input," Barfield said.

The new regulations also require that the chief engineer conduct a public hearing to review existing IGUCAs within seven years of the effective date of the regulation. For any IGUCA established after July 1, 2008, a review must be conducted within seven years of the order establishing the IGUCA becoming final. After that, reviews are to take place within 10 years, or more frequently if the chief engineer decides it's needed.

"These public hearings will be used to determine whether the IGUCA still serves the public interest and whether it should be modified in any way," Barfield said. "Again, there will be ample opportunity for public comment and participation."

There are eight IGUCAs already established in Kansas. The oldest one, the McPherson IGUCA, was established in 1979 to counter the effect of groundwater withdrawals that exceeded recharge rates. Six more were established between 1980 and 1985 to address declining groundwater levels, deteriorating groundwater quality and water waste. The last one established is the Walnut Creek IGUCA, which was established in 1990 to address declining groundwater levels and withdrawal rates that exceeded recharge.

The newly enacted IGUCA regulations are available online at www.ksda.gov/includes/statute_regulations/appropriation/09IGUCA_regs.pdf.

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