The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) Division of Water Resources (DWR) is one step closer to finalizing a water right impairment claim made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for its Water Right File No. 7,571 for the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The Service’s water right is senior in priority to approximately 95 percent of the water rights in the Rattlesnake Creek Basin. The initial report on the impairment claim was published online on Dec. 2, 2015, and will be open for public comment for 60 days. The report is available here.
KDA will also hold a public meeting to present a summary of the report’s findings, answer questions, and seek input on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. in St. John, Kansas. The meeting will be at the Stafford County K-State Research and Extension office located at 210 E. Third Avenue.
After years of alleging that junior groundwater appropriators upstream of the Refuge were depleting the streamflow in Rattlesnake Creek, and working with the Big Bend Groundwater Management District #5 (GMD 5), KDA DWR and a group of local water users to address these concerns, the Service filed an impairment complaint with KDA DWR in April 2013. After receiving the complaint, KDA DWR began a lengthy and extensive investigation using the hydrological model of the district (GMD 5 Model), which includes the Rattlesnake Creek Basin and the Refuge.
The initial report finds the Refuge’s water supply “has been regularly and substantially impacted by junior groundwater pumping.” According to the initial report, over the 34 years reviewed, shortages of greater than 3,000 acre-feet occurred in 18 years, particularly during periods of limited water supply.
“Publishing the initial report is an important step in this process, but there is still significant work to be completed,” said Chief Engineer David Barfield. “KDA hopes that the Service, GMD 5, and basin stakeholders will use this report to explore options to resolve this longstanding concern. We are committed to working with all stakeholders once the report is finalized to address the impairment.”
After the 60-day comment period closes, KDA DWR will evaluate the comments and work to finalize the report. For more information, visit http://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/impairment-complaints/quivira-national-wildlife-refuge.