After turning up the heat on the state of Kansas the past week, Hays Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said there’s progress to report in the city’s years-long effort to pipe water from Edwards County.
“The Chief Engineer has promised that he is going to get the Master Order off his desk by next Friday, and we are going to move forward,” said Schwaller at the city’s regular work session on Thursday evening.
“It will then go to review with internal counsel there at the Division of Water Resources, and be handed over to the city for its review,” Schwaller said. “Thank you for your help everyone.”
The Hays-Russell plan to develop a long-term water supply from the 7,000-acre city-owned R9 ranch in Edwards County has been four years winding through the state’s lengthy application process. Schwaller has said the application should have taken 18 months.
Hays and the city of Russell began in June 2015 to try and win state approval to pipe water from the R9 ranch, which Hays purchased in 1994 for its water rights. The application seeks to use the water for municipal purposes instead of its current use for crop irrigation.
Hays and Russell are the first to apply under the state’s Water Transfer Act, which regulates the taking of water from one basin to another.
A series of statutes, the act kicks in when a transfer involves more than 2,000-acre feet over more than 35 miles. The Hays-Russell application covers 4,800-acre feet of water over 67 miles.
Schwaller and Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty and Russell City Manager Jon Quinday were in Topeka on Monday and met with Gov. Laura Kelly and Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, as well as with Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland. The idea was to ensure results on a promise by the state’s chief engineer for the Division of Water Resources, who has said the Master Order would be ready March 1.
City Commissioner Shaun Musil on Thursday evening thanked Schwaller, and said he also tried to aid the effort.
“I just want to applaud you for calling attention to our water project last week,” Musil said. “I reached out to Chief Engineer David Barfield. I personally felt it was a very good conversation, and I feel like he’s definitely hearing us.”
Musil and Schwaller thanked Barfield for taking phone calls from Hays officials, and both thanked City Commissioner James Meier for previously leading the charge on the project as mayor.