TOPEKA, Kan. — An interim legislative committee in Kansas is struggling to agree on where funding should come from to extend the life of the state’s water resources.

The joint Special Committee on Natural Resources decided Monday not to recommend raising any fees to pay for projects that would address rapidly depleting aquifers and reservoirs filling up with sediment, the Lawrence Journal-World reported .

The committee instead said the Legislature should fully fund its obligation to put $6 million of state general fund money into the water plan, along with $2 million of lottery proceeds. It also recommended a bill authorizing a review of Kansas water law; such a review hasn’t been done since the 1950s.

Lawrence Republican Rep. Tom Sloan said he’s disappointed by the committee’s decision to not recommend fee increases.

“I really had hoped that we had gotten enough information about priorities that will make a difference long-term, particularly on the research side — what programs are cost-effective to prevent sedimentation or address the blue-green algae — that we would be able to say yes, it’s in the public good to increase user fees a small amount to address this,” Sloan said. “So yes, I’m disappointed, but come January I’ll be trying again.”

Kansas’ State Water Plan Fund receives money from the state’s general fund, lottery proceeds and a wide assortment of fees charged to different classes of water users.

Currently, municipal water customers pay 3 cents per thousand gallons of water they use, a fee assessed on monthly water bills. The fee generates about $3.3 million a year for the state. The only class of water users in Kansas who aren’t charged a fee for the water they use is farm irrigators, who account for more than 80 percent of all water consumed each year in the state.

Sen. Marci Francisco, a Democrat from Lawrence, suggested that if irrigators aren’t going to pay into the fund, then the state should consider lowering the fee on municipal water customers. Goodland Republican Sen. Rick Billinger said irrigators shouldn’t get additional fees due to current low commodity prices.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com