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Public Statements

Issue Position: Water

Issue Position

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Even more than educational opportunities, two factors will determine the future of our state -- clean, abundant water supplies and affordable, reliable, responsible energy supplies. Without both water and energy, our businesses and homes will be less hospitable, economic development opportunities will evaporate, and our children and grandchildren will not enjoy the recreational opportunities that we do today.

Clinton, Perry, Milford, Tuttle, and the other Corps of Engineers constructed reservoirs were designed and constructed to provide flood protection and water supplies for 100 years. Most of these reservoirs are 50-60 years and filling with sediment. Sediment makes the lakes shallow and that affects water quality, flood control storage capacity, recreational opportunities, and drinking water supply capacity. While we do not have a crisis yet, Kansans will without appropriate actions.

Twice I hosted the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) in the Bush Administration for meetings with Kansas water policy-makers and stakeholders. The Assistant Secretary oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who manage Clinton Lake and the other large reservoirs in Kansas. I have led a delegation of Kansas water agency heads to Washington, D.C. for a meeting with the Assistant Secretary in the Obama Administration. Each of these meetings increased the confidence of the Corps of Engineers and their civilian leaders that Kansans want to partner more effectively. As I told the current Assistant Secretary and her Deputy, Kansans are not looking for the Corps of Engineers to do and pay for everything related to extending the productive lives of our reservoirs. Kansans believe in partnerships, innovative thinking, and addressing issues before they become a crisis.

Several years ago, I successfully sponsored legislation creating the Clean Drinking Water Fee Fund and a program through which the state and local governments can address municipal drinking water lake sedimentation. The City of Horton's Mission Lake is currently being dredged to restore it as a water supply source. After the water depth became too shallow to supply water to the City's water treatment plant, several water wells were drilled. Restoring the lake's water storage capacity will allow Horton residents to have adequate water supplies, and recreational opportunities, for generations.

Approximately two-thirds of Kansans rely directly or indirectly on the Corps reservoirs or municipal drinking water supply lakes. Without protecting and restoring those water supplies, Kansans will face a truly horrendous water crisis in the future. (You may recall that Atlanta's primary water source, Lake Lanier, almost dried up several summers ago. It is my goal to make sure that such a situation does not ever occur in Kansas.)

So, what have we accomplished thus far? First, as indicated above, the Clean Drinking Water Fee Fund is addressing municipal drinking water lakes sustainability. Second, under the encouragement of the Vision 2020 Committee which I Chair, Kansas' water agencies have developed a "Reservoir Road Map" to address the long-term viability of our larger drinking water supply sources. Third, the Corps of Engineers is negotiating with the Kansas Water Office to permanently assign a Corps employee to the Water Office as a liaison to expedite joint planning and project coordination. Fourth, the Legislature approved creation of a "Water Data Library" at the Kansas Biological Survey on KU's west campus into which all water quality and quantity data collected by state (and hopefully federal) water agencies will be placed on a "common" platform. This will facilitate water policy planning because all data will be in one place and in one format. I have been in contact with the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about their agencies participating in the water data library project so that we can better coordinate our efforts to safeguard Kansas' water supplies.


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