Kansas Aqueduct The Hays Daily News • Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 A8 An illustration contained in a preliminary report by engineers updating a 1982 Corps of Engineers proposal for a Kansas Aqueduct, shows where a terminal reservoir near Utica. Aqueduct, F rom A1 According to the latest figures available from the state treasurer’s office, Kansas has a total debt of $22.5 billion. That debt hails from every city county, township, school district and every hospital, fire and sewer district in Kansas. That $22.5 billion also includes state highway programs, rural water projects and even debt undertaken for the Kansas Turnpike Authority, a payits-own-way toll road in eastern Kansas. The cost isn’t actually an estimate, but simply a index of where the 1982 costs might be today. Mark Rude, executive director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3 and perhaps the aqueduct’s greatest promoter, is undaunted by the cost. He’s just not sure how much water the project should go after, or how the cost would be shared. Utica resident Jeff Johnson can’t be counted as among the supporters of the project, and recently, for the first time, saw a map of where a terminal reservoir — covering nearly 25,000 acres, stretching nearly 10 miles across — would be located. He would have been standing under water as he looked at the map. In fact, nearly his entire farm would be swallowed up by the reservoir, and his father’s house would effectively become lakefront property. “I hope it never happens in mine or my kids’ lifetime,” he said after being shown the map by The Hays Daily News shortly after he stepped down from his swather to check for a hydraulic leak. “It would put an end to us. “That takes out about everything we’ve got except the high ground.” Johnson also wonders how the gently rolling hills would be suitable for building what would be the largest reservoir in Kansas. “This is not going to hold water,” Johnson said. “This is somebody’s pipe dream along here.” Johnson said he had never seen the map, nor had he ever heard from any state or federal officials about the project, first floated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982, resuscitated for renewed study last year by Rude and the GMD3 water district. Johnson’s grandfather bought Cattle lazily graze along the north fork of Walnut Creek in northwest Ness County. the makings of today’s farming operations back in the 1940s, and Johnson said he and “a lot of other families” would be hurt by the lake. “People down south don’t want to hear it, but the more feasible thing is if they stop irrigating, I suppose,” he said. At the urging of the GMD, the Kansas Water Office and the Corps joined together to revisit the plan, to examine if it’s even feasible to consider. That review is expected to cost nearly $300,000. In the meantime, the 15-member aqueduct advisory committee — lacking anyone from the Utica area — has met twice to discuss the project and get updates on its feasibility. That committee meets again Wednesday in Ulysses, following a guided tour by Rude, a tour that’s designed to show how “efficient we are and how valuable it is.” Because it lacks meeting space, Rude said Utica’s being bypassed in favor of Ulysses, where there’s demand for water from the proj- ect. The water would be used to either to augment water from the Ogallala Aquifer or replenish the underground water system upon which millions of acres of irrigation farmland is dependent on. But the committee in August visited White Cloud in northeast Kansas. That’s near where dozens — perhaps hundreds — of wells could be located in the Missouri River, pumping water during periods of high flow into a 13,000-acre reservoir acting as a holding facility, slowly releasing water into the aqueduct to flow southwest to Utica. Northeast Kansas residents apparently spoke against the plan as well, talking about the thousands of acres of farmland, growing corn without tapping into an ancient source of water, such as the Ogallala, would be inundated by the reservoir. Representatives of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska also spoke against the plan, concerned about the their heritage that might be lost. For Rude, there’s still a host of questions to be asked and answered, including how much water is needed, who would get it and who would pay the cost. Tentatively, he said, the current thinking is to ask for 6 million acre feet of water — nearly 2 trillion gallons of water a year. Recent reviews suggest anywhere from 4 to 7 million acre feet of water might be available annually. Western Kansas irrigators use MIKE CORN • Hays Daily News 3 million acre feet of water, nearly 1 trillion gallons of water, to grow crops on nearly 4 million acres of ground. That’s why it’s now a question of downsizing the project, to make it closer to affordable, or make it bigger and meet other water demands in the region. “The demand for water in this area is tremendous,” Rude said. “I would say I’m very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.” ABOVE LEFT: Utica farmer Jeff Johnson drives through a patch of swather-high feed several miles south of Utica, in an area that would be underwater if a proposal to build a cross-state aqueduct to transport water from the Missouri River to an as-yet proposed reservoir. ABOVE RIGHT: A scenic spot along the north fork of Walnut Creek in northwest Ness County.
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