The Division of Water Resources wants to continue meeting with Hays officials as the agency performs its review of the city’s request to obtain what will be a long-term supply of water from the city owned R9 Ranch south of Kinsley in Edwards County.
In a four-page letter released Monday, the agency laid outs its response to a recent meeting between it and the city concerning the $76 million project.
That water-use change application is currently under review by the Division of Water Resources, an agency within the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
A letter authored last week summarized the March 24 meeting, called to discuss the water-use change application filed by the city of Hays
“We found the discussion informative and positive, and we would like to continue the dialogue with the city so that KDA-DWR will have the best information available with which to process and consider the city’s change applications,” the letter, signed by DWR Chief Engineer David Barfield, states.
The letter confirms discussions at the meeting, which included the agency’s consideration of the water-use change application “as if the proposed municipal use was occurring at some distance from the existing ranch, but less than 35 miles ... without the additional considerations required by the water transfer act.”
That act requires a detailed and lengthy public hearing on the transfer of large quantities of water more than 35 miles from a source of supply. The transfer of water from the R9 Ranch to the city of Hays would trigger that act, a first for the state.
In its letter, DWR addressed issues discussed.
DWR said it appears the agency has all the information it needs to apply the consumptive use criteria, the difference between what is allowed to be used under the water rights for agriculture compared to what would be allowed for municipal use.
“It further appears that, after applying the relevant regulations, our consumptive use analysis show that 7,604 acre-feet of the 7,626 acre-feet requested by the city in its change applications is eligible for conversion to municipal use,” the letter states. “KDA-DWR’s slightly smaller amount is limited by the amount certified by each right.”
The ranch currently has water rights for agriculture amounting to nearly 8,000 acre feet of water.
The second issue falls to the city’s request for phased use of the water available, even though only a single pipeline would be constructed.
In short, the city is asking to be allowed to develop water use over time as the demand — based on population growth or need from other area communties — increases.
“Specifically, we request that the city provide 50-year projections of population, commercial and industrial growth anticipated to create demand for the R9 Ranch water for the city of Hays, including the specific quantity justified for Hays with the assumptions relied on to develop the projection,” the letter states. “To the extent the city of Russell is committed to the project, their needs can also be included.”
Russell owns a part of the ranch and could ask for a portion of the water, paying Hays for that share of the development costs.
The final point in the letter detailed the city’s desire to keep the project as transparent as possible, and discussed the possibility of public involvement through public meetings or formal hearings.
David Traster, the Wichita attorney representing the city, said the city isn’t planning to request a pre-decision hearing, but is reserving the right to do so.
“The city did say, however, that if the chief engineer wishes to hold a pre-decision meeting or hearing of his own volition, the city would not object and would participate in such proceeding,” the letter states.
Barfield already has agreed to conduct a meeting on the basin prior to approving the change application, although no date has been set because work continues on reviewing what Hays is requesting.