Topeka A Senate committee endorsed a water-quality bill despite strong objections from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Secretary Clyde Graeber told the Senate Natural Resources Committee Friday his department did not back the bill, which would create a process for KDHE to reclassify streams for pollution control.
Graeber said the bill, which will now go to the full Senate, mandates his agency re-evaluate all streams, including dry beds, and eliminate protection for some streams that carry water.
"This new framework represents an environmental step backward and conflicts with federal regulations." Graeber said.
The bill would create a process for KDHE to follow when classifying streams for different uses such as recreational and agricultural. It is a response to a lawsuit filed by two state environmental groups to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the federal Clean Water Act in Kansas.
After the lawsuit's settlement in 1999, the EPA challenged the state's designation of 164 lakes and 1,292 streams as secondary waters, or not meant for swimming. The EPA wants those lakes and streams classified as primary.
Supporters of the bill, including 21 agricultural groups, say without the changes farmers and ranchers would be forced to test and clean up stream beds that are dry most of the year.
The committee, comprised of mostly farmers and ranchers, defended telling KDHE what to do.
"We're trying to put the state back in charge, rather than some EPA bureaucrats," said Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler.