Topeka — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has asked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to back off of a feasibility study of Kansas taking water from the Missouri River to divert to western Kansas.
"The Missouri River is a resource that is vital to Missouri's way of life and our economy," Nixon said in a letter to Brownback.
Describing the Missouri River as the "lifeblood" of numerous communities, Nixon said the river provides drinking water and is used to ship goods to markets.
"We have worked for many years, and fought many legal battles, to ensure the River is managed properly," Nixon wrote. "Thoughtful and reasoned discussion and cooperation, rather than unilateral plans for massive diversions, must be the guiding forces in planning for the River's use," he urged.
Nixon's letter to Brownback was in response to the Kansas Water Office's plan to commission a study on a proposal to divert water from the Missouri River and transport that water through canals some 360 miles to irrigate crops in western Kansas.
The so-called Kansas Aqueduct Project has been on the shelf for decades, but has recently been re-emphasized by water officials in Kansas.
Brownback was at the Republican Governors Association conference in Arizona and unavailable for comment, his office said.
Earlier this week, David Brenn, president of the Kansas Water Congress, said the aqueduct proposal "is the best and last long-term hope for water supply in the state of Kansas." The congress is made up of water officials from across the state and works on water resource issues.
Mark Rude, executive director of the Garden City-based Groundwater Management District No. 3, said if the state takes no action in the next 50 years, the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground water system stretching from Nebraska to Texas, will be 70 percent depleted.
Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, said the idea is to divert water at high flow or flood times on the Missouri River. That would help Kansas farmers and alleviate downstream flooding on the Missouri, he said. The water office is the state's water agency, which conducts water planning and helps make state water policy.
But Nixon said while Missourians have suffered through flooding on the Missouri River, they have also depended on the river during droughts.
"I am opposed to this diversion, and therefore request that you direct the Kansas Water Office to reconsider the planned study of this ill-advised project," Nixon said, adding that such a diversion would adversely impact Missouri.
Kansas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have joined to fund a $300,000 study to re-calculate a 1982 study on the aqueduct project. In 1982, the study pegged the cost at $3.6 billion, but officials said estimates now could range from $12.5 billion to $25 billion. The new study is expected to be launched next year and completed in 18 months.