HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said diverting Missouri River water to Kansas would be "ill-advised" and urged the state to reconsider studying its feasibility.
In a letter sent Thursday to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Nixon criticized a proposal to build a 360-mile aqueduct that would reroute as much as 4 million acre feet of Missouri River water to western Kansas to help support irrigated farming of corn and other crops. Water officials have expressed concerns that the current use of the Ogallala Aquifer to support agriculture is unsustainable.
"The Missouri River is a resource that is vital to Missouri's way of life and our economy," Nixon said. "We have worked for many years, and fought many legal battles, to ensure that the River is managed properly."
His comments came after Kansas officials said Tuesday that they were moving forward with a study that will begin next year and take about 18 months to complete. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in an email that the governor hadn't seen Nixon's letter yet.
"We cannot comment on the letter until Gov. Brownback has the opportunity to read it and understand Gov. Nixon's concerns," she said.
The river begins in Montana and travels through North Dakota and South Dakota, and along the borders of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. After it reaches the Kansas City area, the river moves east to St. Louis, where it meets up with the Mississippi.
How much the aqueduct would cost is to be determined. A study in 1982 pegged the price at $3.6 billion to construct a system beginning near White Cloud near the Nebraska border and terminating near Utica in the west.
Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, has said that the goal would to do little or no harm to states downstream. But Nixon said that while the Missouri River is prone to flooding, there also are years when drought has threatened drinking water supplies and the ability to ship goods to market. Nixon said neither state would be "well-served by the approach exemplified by this project" and requested "reasoned discussion and cooperation."
"I am opposed to this diversion, and therefore request that you direct the Kansas Water Office to reconsider the planned study of this ill-advised project," Nixon wrote.
Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said in an email that the letter spoke for itself and that he didn't have anything further to add.