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Hearing set on Sheridan water use plan

8/9/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

HOXIE -- The Division of Water Resources has scheduled the first of two public hearings on a proposal made under a new law passed earlier this year by the Kansas Legislature.

The first hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 13 in the Sheridan County Courthouse by DWR Chief Engineer David Barfield, who made an initial finding on a proposal for a local enhanced management area in a portion of Sheridan County. The area commonly is referred to as the Sheridan 6 high priority area because of its rapidly declining water levels.

The LEMA bill was one of a host of water bills passed by the Kansas Legislature this year, an outgrowth of an Ogallala Aquifer committee.

The first was proposed by Wayne Bossert, manager of the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4.

It's a virtual copy of a proposal made last year that ultimately didn't take hold because state law didn't allow for an automatic end to the program. Irrigators who were willing to cut back on water use wanted some assurances the program would end in five years if the burden was too much or it simply wasn't working.

The LEMA bill makes it possible to let the program expire at the conclusion of a five-year period or it can be extended at the GMD's request.

Under the proposal forwarded to Barfield, the Sheridan 6 plan would reduce water use by limiting irrigation to a total of 11 inches per year -- no more than 55 inches during the course of the five-year program. Livestock would be limited to 12 gallons of water per animal each day.

The reduction is expected to be approximately 20 percent from current use.

The first hearing is relatively straightforward, meeting a series of relatively simple requirements under the law.

A subsequent hearing, not yet set, will be conducted to adopt the management plan as proposed.

Barfield doesn't have the flexibility to alter the plan, although he can return it to the GMD board with suggestions.