Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5 is working to achieve an effective resolution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") impairment complaint on Water Right File No. 7571.
This page is intended to provide information to stakeholders in the area regarding this process.
The District is working with area stakeholders to provide a sustainable remedy to the Quivira NWR impairment complaint. The issue at hand is extremely complex and affects the livelihood of several generations throughout this region. As such, the District is considering every option thoroughly and consulting expert hydrogeologists to ensure that the objectives put forward are effective and based on the best science available.
In February, the District board unanimously approved the Quivira NWR LEMA plan to be submitted to the Chief Engineer for review in preparation for public hearings. Initially, KDA-DWR provided feedback expressing concerns with the technical basis for the LEMA plan as a remedy for the impairment at Quivira NWR. At the end of July, KDA-DWR formally rejected the Quivira NWR LEMA plan and in the same letter threatened direct administration effective January 1, 2020.
The District and other area water users received correspondence from the Chief Engineer outlining his intent to administer water rights in the Rattlesnake Creek region in relation to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge impairment. This proposed administration will be phased over the next three years depending on where the water user's water right is located. KDA-DWR held two informational meetings in St John on October 21. Videos of these meetings, courtesy of KDA-DWR, can be found here (3:00pm) and here (7:00pm).
On October 18, Senator Jerry Moran's office announced, following a meeting with Aurelia Skipwith, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that Ms. Skipwith committed to work with local stakeholders to find a voluntary solution for the Quivira NWR impairment before requesting KDA-DWR to regulate junior water rights. The full statement can be found here.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the following statement regarding this issue:
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not make a request for water to the State of Kansas for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Fiscal Year 2020. Throughout the year, the Service will continue to work to find local, voluntary, collaborative and non-regulatory solutions, including augmentation, to address the water needs of the community and the wildlife conservation purposes of the refuge before determining if more formal measures are necessary to ensure the refuge's water rights are secured. We look forward to working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas congressional delegation, and all water users to develop concrete milestones and lasting solutions."
The work is not yet complete. The District stands committed to finding a solution to this issue and is working diligently to achieve it.
The District is leading a team that is in direct discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leadership. The District has identified the appropriate team to be in these discussions and once there is further information available, it will be distributed via this website.