Legislative committee recommends fully funding Kansas water projects

by Stephen Koranda, Kansas News Service

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

Recent budget problems have made it difficult for lawmakers to come up with the $8 million in annual funding called for in state law. But Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican, said the money is critical because it pays for projects that protect and expand the state’s water resources.

“The future of the state of Kansas will be determined by the availability, the quantity and the quality of the water,” Sloan said Monday. “If there’s no water here, no one will live in Kansas.”

Sloan is chairman of the Legislature’s Special Committee on Natural Resources, which met Monday at the Statehouse. He said in addition to urging a resumption in funding during the next legislative session, the panel will recommend a top-to-bottom study of Kansas water laws.
Committee members also debated whether to recommend special fees for some big water users, including farmers irrigating crops.

Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, said those fees could tie funding for water programs to some of the largest water users.

“There’s not a direct connection between their (water) use and any contribution,” Francisco said.

Other members of the committee opposed that idea. Sen. Rick Billinger, a Goodland Republican, said farmers already pay their fair share.

“To just pick on the ag industry and say, ‘We’re going to put a fee on you guys’ just so we can pay for something, I think that’s wrong,” Billinger said.

The committee ultimately decided not to recommend any new fees.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

See more at http://kcur.org/post/legislative-committee-recommends-fully-funding-kansas-water-projects.

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