- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Water Authority has agreed to circulate an updated report on a proposal to build an aqueduct to take water from the Missouri River to southwestern Kansas despite its members showing little enthusiasm for the idea.

The authority accepted a report Thursday on a proposal to build a 360-mile concrete-lined canal and 15 pumping stations, at an estimated cost $18 billion to construct and additional $1 billion each year to operate it. The project would move excess Missouri River water held in a reservoir near White Cloud, along the Nebraska border, to Utica in southwest Kansas.

A state committee was asked to update a 1982 analysis on a similar proposal because water levels are declining in the Ogallala Aquifer, a major source of water for a large part of the Great Plains.

Members of the Water Authority said they were glad to have the report updated but that it’s not a time to spend money on the project when Kansas is facing more immediate water issues, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (https://bit.ly/1tEairx ).

Judy Wegener-Stevens, chairwoman of the Doniphan County Conservation District, opposes the plan.

“We feel very concerned about this, about taking prime farmland from northeast Kansas in order to go ahead and irrigate the southwestern part,” she said.

Gov. Sam Brownback said the state is determined to address water issues and the strain on the Ogallala Aquifer. He has said that Ogallala’s storage could be down to 30 percent capacity in 50 years if nothing changes.

“Let’s do it like Kansans,” he said. “Be calm, move it forward. We’re going to talk to everybody and at the end of the day, we’re going to get something done.”

Authority members said the report doesn’t address several key questions, such as the financial, legal, cultural and environmental impacts of the plan. For example, it’s unclear if the state could claim the water because the river’s watershed lies in several states and the Ioway Tribe has tribal rights in Doniphan County in northeast Kansas.

Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who has made his opposition well known, called the project a “hare-brained idea” in his State of the State speech.

Alan Kelley, vice chairman of the Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, told the Water Authority his tribe has burial grounds and sacred sites on the site near White Cloud.

“Some of them are sacred sites, and we don’t like to move those,” he said. “We want to keep those whole.”


Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com

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