The comment period for the first draft of the impairment report on the senior water right at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has been extended again.
The extension was granted after the release of the complete — and voluminous — water file concerning Quivira’s water right.
It actually took two tries to get the full file released, the first on Friday with the release of 576 pages, and the second coming a day later after the Division of Water Resources realized several hundred pages had not been included. As a result, a second release was made, this time containing 894 pages.
Even at that, several pages were omitted, removed from review because they contain “legally privileged information,” the agency said in releasing the document.
It’s unclear, however, if that’s even the full file yet, as the most recent entry was an email dated April 20, 2015, suggesting there’s been no correspondence between DWR and Quivira in the past nine months.
“The file was very large compared to other water right files, and it took us longer than we anticipated to make it available,” DWR said in making the first version available. “Therefore, we are also extending the review period for the first draft of the initial report an additional 30 days.”
The time allowed to make comments on the Dec. 2 impairment report was extended to April 15.
That more than doubles — to 127 days — the comment period, which first started out at 60 days.
Questions about Quivira’s water right surfaced at a public hearing in St. John, called to discuss the impairment report prepared by DWR.
That report found junior water rights in the Rattlesnake Creek basin are impairing the senior water right held by Quivira.
In effect, Quivira isn’t getting the 14,632 acre feet of water it’s entitled to use under the terms of its 1957 water right. Quivira’s water right is senior to nearly 1,600 water rights in the river basin, almost 95 percent of all the rights. Only about 90 water rights are senior to Quivira.
The contents of the file are a mish-mash of data, but include water use reports filed with the agency, as well as a long-running discussion about Quivira’s inability to get the water it’s permitted to receive.
It also includes a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional chief of water resources on the subject of augmentation — supplementing water flow in Rattlesnake Creek from another source of water.
In that letter, dated Dec. 10, 2014, the federal agency objected to the idea of using augmentation as a way to make Quivira’s water right whole again — one of the alternatives cited at the meeting in St. John.
“... We must restate that the service still has fundamental issues with using groundwater pumping to resolve a problem created by pumping,” FWS water resources chief Megan A. Estep said. “Although we agree that augmentation might be an option as an interim solution to ensuring the refuge is able to use more water in relatively normal to dry years, we do not believe that it is the final or sole solution. Instead, pumping water into the stream should be viewed as a stop-gap measure to be used while finding a more permanent, sustainable solution.”
A 2006 study by the Kansas Water Office determined augmentation of 1,460 acre feet of water annually would have cost $5.1 million, including purchasing the water rights.
No updated estimate, however, has been made.