U.S. Water News Online
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Twenty agriculture groups are joining
forces to oppose consolidation of the state's water agencies, an idea
suggested to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius by one of her government review
Opponents such as the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock
Association contend the current distribution of water programs among
several agencies has worked well.
Sebelius has not commented on the idea, one of dozens produced
last month by five teams she created after her November election to
review government operations for possible savings and efficiency.
But Senate Agriculture Chairman Derek Schmidt said such a
consolidation is ``ripe for consideration'' because of the state's
``We have such a diffuse structure,'' said Schmidt,
R-Independence. ``That may be a luxury we can't afford.''
Currently, water rights issues are handled by the Division of
Water Resources within the Department of Agriculture, while the
Department of Health and Environment deals with pollution.
The 13-member Kansas Water Authority reviews water policy, with
research and staff support from the Water Office. And the Kansas
Conservation Commission administers water conservation programs and
provides information to local officials.
At a news conference, the coalition of agriculture groups listed
opposition to consolidating the water programs as one of its policy
positions for the legislative session.
One reason is that water quality and water use are highly
technical issues and it would be difficult for one agency to handle
both, said Greg Krissek, lobbyist for the Kansas Corn Growers
Coalition members also contend that no single agency can become
too powerful if several are involved.
``You have to be careful, because those agencies have different
missions,'' said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg.
Schmidt said he doesn't see the state consolidating all water
programs within one agency but that perhaps it should divide them
among only two.
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