Weekly News - Dec. 4, 2017
12/04/2017 - Weekly KRWA E-News
City of Lawrence Seeking Consultant to Create New Plan for Farmland Contamination
Brandon McGuire, assistant to the city manager, said the city began considering a consultant-led study when the nitrogen-water distribution and storage methods currently in place became insufficient. He said the goal is to come up with a plan that is environmentally and financially sustainable. The city took ownership of the former fertilizer plant in 2010 with the plan of using part of the 467-acre site for a new business park. The city paid nothing for the property, but accepted responsibility for cleaning up environmental issues left behind by the bankrupt fertilizer plant. “The city [is] committed to stewardship of this property into perpetuity, so we’ve got the one option right now, which is land application,” McGuire said. "... And we have limited funding, especially if you’re thinking on a potentially 30-year or more timeline." The city received an $8.6 million trust fund that Farmland had set aside for cleanup. McGuire said the trust is now about $4.5 million and won’t be enough to sustain what is likely to be decades of remediation. Bids for consulting services are due Dec. 19.
McPherson BPU to Add Wells, Improve Aquifer’s Future
The McPherson Board of Public Utilities were recently issued permits to proceed with establishing three water wells located south of McPherson and outside the McPherson Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area. “We applied for additional water permits in 2011 in the south well field, looking to develop additional water resources because of the declining aquifer,” said Tim Maier, general manager for McPherson BPU. “We do not have a short term problem. The (Equus Beds) aquifer has really been declining ever since it started to be developed in the 1970s or 1980s. We won’t have any issues for at least 10 to 20 years. If you continue to deplete it when you have a problem, then you’re out of water, so we’re trying to stay ahead of that by looking to develop some additional resources outside the McPherson area,” Maier explained.
Douglas County Approves Expansion of RWD into Shawnee County
Douglas County commissioners approved a measure last week that allows Douglas County RWD No. 3 to expand into eastern Shawnee County, although they were perplexed that none of the people requesting the measure were present. Commissioners were presented with a petition from Shawnee County landowners favoring the inclusion of their property in the water district. More than 75 percent of property owners in the expansion area signed the petition, the petitioners' lawyer said in a statement to the county. The Douglas County Commission was required to approve the expansion. The Shawnee County Commission also must approve the expansion, which would give any opposing party another opportunity to voice an objection.
Southern Kansas is ‘High Cotton’
Kansas is a forgotten notch in the Cotton Belt. Stuart Briggeman and his wife, Teri, were early proponents of cotton. They started growing it around the turn of the 21st century and have continued to grow their acreage, which now exceeds corn — making cotton their biggest crop. “It’s exciting,” said Briggeman of the industry’s growth, adding it’s not just because he is part owner in the gin. Commodities are starting to drive more cotton acres and the water issues.” His irrigated corn crop uses around 16 to 18 inches of water. This year’s cotton crop used just 6 inches. “I’m really pleased with the way this year’s cotton crop has turned out,” he said. “Cotton just works really well here.”
KPERS Funding Improves, but $9B in Unfunded Liability Remains
Alan Conroy, executive director of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, presented the latest system valuation last week to members of the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits. KPERS held steady at 67 percent funded last year, according to Conroy’s report, and its investment returns exceeded expectations. However, $9 billion in debt owed to the system still looms, and lawmakers would have to put $600 million into the system in the fiscal year beginning July 1 just to keep from adding more debt. Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat and member of the committee, said funding the plan at 67 percent was an improvement over previous years. In 2012, the program was just 52 percent funded.
ProPublica Report Maps Hazardous Military Waste Sites
In Kansas and Missouri, there are 200 hazardous military installations — most with multiple hazardous sites — according to an new series by ProPublica, “Bombs in Your Backyard.” Kansas has the 10th-highest number of ongoing medium- and high-risk sites in the country. The ProPublica series has been highlighting the Department of Defense and their contractors' continued use of "open burns" to dispose of hazardous materials, a practice which is more heavily regulated by the EPA for others, such as the private sector and local governments.
Push to Protect Prairies Hits Headwinds on Great Plains
The debate over the prairie's future is a story about farmers striving to make a living, energy companies sparring over the benefits and costs of biofuels that push farmers to plant more, sportsmen trying to preserve hunting grounds, and environmentalists struggling to make inroads in states where they're overshadowed by agribusiness. The Department of Agriculture estimated that in Kansas, 20,931 acres of new land was broken out for crop production in 2012, putting the state sixth in the country; Nebraska was No. 1, with nearly 55,000 acres converted to crops. Prairies once covered 170 million acres of North America, from Saskatchewan to Texas. Kansas isn't the only state where the discussion plays out, but it could have an outsize role thanks to its senior senator, Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Advocates say Roberts will need convincing. "I think there's a good chance this time around," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who recently reintroduced legislation called the "American Prairie Conservation Act" to make Sodsaver national. "I think it ought to be a nationwide program."
KRWA Training Calendar
December 12-14, 2017 - Topeka
Cross Connection - Backflow Prevention
December 14, 2017 - Iola
Wastewater Lift Station Maintenance and Troubleshooting
January 9, 2018 - Manhattan
Wastewater Utility Workshop: Operations & Management
January 11, 2018 - Hoisington
Wastewater Utility Workshop: Operations & Management
The latest U.S Drought Monitor indicates continued deteriorating conditions in central and eastern Kansas. [See Kansas Map.] Scattered below normal streamflows and below normal precipitation during the past 30 days led to expansion of areas of abnormally dry and moderate drought in the south-central portion of the state. During the past week, the region was dry and temperatures were well above average. A strong cold front is expected to move through the state today and tonight, bringing colder temperatures, but not much drought relief is expected. In the wake, strong northwesterly winds of 20-30 mph and stronger gusts will likely occur across much of Kansas into Oklahoma and the Texas/Oklahoma Panhandles, Monday afternoon and early evening. Widespread elevated wildfire conditions are anticipated across parts of the central/southern Plains where generally dry/dormant fuels could support large fire spread given the forecast meteorological conditions.