Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lawmakers protest releases from reservoirs

Army Corps of Engineers expects drawdowns to continue this year

February 22, 2007


— Federal officials who control Kansas dams said Wednesday that controversial releases from the reservoirs, including Lake Perry, likely will continue this year.

"We are still losing water on account of the drought," John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, told state lawmakers.

Under the Army Corps of Engineers control manual, that means water will have to be released from some Kansas reservoirs to support the navigation of barges along the Missouri River.

Lawmakers attending a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees didn't like hearing the news.

State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, said the system's operating manual was put into effect in the 1940s, when there was much more barge traffic along the Missouri River.

"Maybe it's time the manual does need to be updated," Tafanelli said.

Kansas officials have long criticized the corps for releasing water from Perry, Milford and Tuttle reservoirs.

Last summer, boaters on Lake Perry were angered when the corps opened the sluice gates to release water down the Kansas River and into the Missouri River.

The drawdowns hurt boating and other forms of recreation, devastating the local businesses, critics say. Plus, they argue, the amount of water released has little effect on lifting the Missouri River for any significant length of time.

"It begs the question for me, what is the value given the consequences?" said House Appropriations Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington.

Woodley said he sympathized with those negatively affected by the drawdowns, but defended the releases as necessary to balance interests in the Missouri River basin.

"The reservoirs in the Kansas River reservoir system have a much better chance of year-to-year recovery than the reservoirs in the main stem of the Missouri River," he said, referring to federal reservoirs in Nebraska, Montana and North and South Dakota.

He said the Missouri River basin is entering its eighth straight year of drought. The system currently has 34 million acre-feet of water, which is 2.36 million acre-feet less than a year ago, and 23.1 million acre-feet below the conservation pools, which is the level that would have been attained with average rainfall during the past several years.

An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons.

Woodley said the state could avoid releases by purchasing from the federal government the navigational storage capacity of the reservoirs, which he said would cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

But state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said she had a problem with asking Kansas taxpayers to pay for something already built with taxpayer funds.

And if the state did purchase the navigational storage, Tafanelli said he had concerns about whether the federal government would assist in future dredging expenses to maintain the lakes.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

"Sounds like some far-left, boater haters may be behind this."

Well, you're wrong, but your knee-jerk reaction isn't surprising.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 3 months ago

The matter is easy. The water belongs to those who are releasing it. All debate about the adverse affects on boaters and recreation is irrelevant. Gush away.

Masttop 11 years, 3 months ago

Forty to sixty years ago when the Corp's operation manual was written there were a number of things that were significantly different.

First, as stated in the story, there was more barge traffic on the Missouri River. In the last couple of years only one or two barges moved during the period when the lakes were drawn down. Dumping the three Kansas reservoirs adds an inch or so of depth to the Missouri for about a week and has no measurable effect on the Mississippi.

Second, these reservoirs were built primarily with flood control in mind, and now the problem is drought. That means the water is released without ANY concern for its possible need as a water supply to cites downstream. Also, because of the drought the lakes have been recharging more slowly. One draw down at Perry took over two years to replenish.

Lastly, there was no significant water based recreation industry in Kansas. The boaters I know make no argument that their interests run behind flood control and water quality. They do feel that it's unfair that the barge operators get absolute and unchallenged water rights and pay absolutely zero. They were just at the table when the manual was written.

Fast forward to the present, and the Corps will allow the State of Kansas these water rights only if we pay for them. The price has never been set, but the numbers discussed have been in the 100's of millions. Their retort to comments of ... "but it's Kansas' water" has been "yeah, but it's our dam and we operated it the way we damn well see fit."

salad 11 years, 3 months ago

Yes, that's the REAL issue: failure of govt. to update their regulations to comply with the times. We need to keep our water here for the greater good of KS. It doesn't effect the larger rivers. Student loans limits and the alternative minimum tax are other egregious viloations of the public good. For instance, college students are only allowed to borrow $10,500/year of federal money, no matter what their circumstances or what school they go to. This limit has not changed in over 20 years, yet college costs have increased ten to twenty times what they were 20 years ago. The AMT was originally planned to make sure a few really rich people back in the sixties had to pay SOME tax, now it hits almost exclusively middle class and single working parents.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 11 years, 3 months ago

Gushing away the lakes will simply force KS boat owners to put their boats in Missouri lakes instead due to low water levels. Also gushing away will be KS revenue that would have been collected for boat permits. And for what? So the Missouri river can be raised about an inch for several days. Just plain dumb.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

"Funny, any remark I make absurdly implicating the far-left, you always respond Bozo."

You do that every post, RT, and I don't respond to your every post, so the premise of your statement is false.

Masttop 11 years, 3 months ago

"Also gushing away will be KS revenue that would have been collected for boat permits."

Permits and registration definitely raise some revenue, but the real dollars are in sales tax and more yet in property taxes. Boats are assessed the way cars and RV's used to be assessed ... at 30% of valuation giving Kansas the highest boat taxes in the nation. Generally that amounts to around 5% of their value every year. Put that together with dangerously low lakes and unaccessible boat ramps, and the gush to Missouri is already under way.

snowWI 11 years, 3 months ago

The drought on the Missouri River has been ongoing for years and years with no sign of letting up. On the upper reaches of the Missouri River temperatures last summer were even over 120F at one point. Snowcover has also been much below average in many areas of the Upper Midwest and northern plains. This long-term drought in the Upper Missouri river basin is now affecting a large region. This is a good example of a hydrological drought affecting river levels throughout the plains. I think nearly all of the bodies of water in Kansas are reservoirs anyway. After all, Kansas is in the plains and not the midwest.

snowWI 11 years, 3 months ago

Reality Check, Barges will be a non-issue in a few years anyway if the drought continues in the Missouri River basin. The drought has already been going on for nearly 10 years. Also, snowpack continues to be much below average in the headwaters of the Missouri River in southwest Montana.

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