Topeka House members tentatively approved a bill Monday to establish the Horse Thief Reservoir benefit district, a step toward creating a new lake in southwest Kansas.
The lake would be constructed west of Jetmore along Horse Thief Canyon, about 30 miles north of Dodge City, with the water coming from damming a creek in the canyon. Supporters said the project will control flooding and provide recreational opportunities in the area.
The bill would set up an eight-member board to oversee construction and operation of Horse Thief Reservoir. Members would represent Finney, Ford, Gray and Hodgeman counties; Dodge City and Garden City; the Pawnee Watershed District, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
The House's action advanced the measure to final action, expected Tuesday. The Senate also would have to approve the bill.
Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, said much of the preliminary engineering work has been finished. Establishing the benefit district would allow officials to begin securing federal and state funding for the project. The bill allows the benefit district to levy a sales tax to pay off bonds and manage the project after completion.
Schwartz said work on the lake could be started within two years.
The project would include a 450-acre reservoir and a 1,100 acre recreation area. Nine counties were originally approached about the project. Five counties were named in the bill, but House members amended Ness County out of the project Monday, at the request of local officials.
If completed, Horse Thief Reservoir would be by far the largest lake in southwest Kansas. A half-dozen lakes suitable for fishing are in the area, the largest being Scott Lake in Scott County, at 115 acres.
Horse Thief Reservoir is HB 2582.