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Committee Recommends Fully Funding Kansas Water Projects

Reps. Tom Sloan (left) and Ken Rahjes during the meeting in Topeka. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

Recent budget problems have made it difficult for lawmakers to come up with the $8 million in annual funding called for in state law. But Republican Representative Tom Sloan said the money is critical because it pays for projects that protect and expand the state’s water resources. 

“The future of the state of Kansas will be determined by the availability, the quantity and the quality of the water,” Sloan said. “If there's no water here, no one will live in Kansas."

Sloan chairs the Special Committee on Natural Resources. He said in addition to urging a resumption in funding, the panel will recommend a top-to-bottom study of Kansas water laws.

The committee also debated whether special fees should be recommended for some big water users, including farmers irrigating crops.

Democratic Senator Marci Francisco said those fees could tie funding for water programs to some of the largest water users.

“There’s not a direct connection between their (water) use and any contribution,” Francisco said.

Other members of the committee opposed that idea. Republican Senator Rick Billinger said farmers already pay their fair share.

“To just pick on the ag industry and say ‘we’re going to put a fee on you guys’ just so we can pay for something, I think that’s wrong,” Billinger said.

The committee ultimately decided not to recommend any new fees.

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