There’s an adage that good fences make good neighbors.
When U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed a water impairment notice with the Kansas Department of Agriculture regarding water rights at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in 2013, it posed a grave threat to the region. The fences between local communities and the federal government weren’t looking so good in central Kansas.
If an agreement is not met, farmers and ranchers in the Big Bend Groundwater Management District 5 would have had to stop irrigating their crops, and the area would have seen a major decrease in population, forcing businesses to close and farmers to give up their land. The citizens of Barton, Edwards, Kiowa, Pawnee, Pratt, Reno and Rice counties, which the district covers, would ultimately pay the price.
It appears fences are in the process of being mended.
The Hutchinson News’ Alice Manette reported over the weekend a solution is in the works that will satisfy both the wildlife refuge and the area communities impacted by the notice. With the help of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. government and area farmers and their representatives, an agreement over water rights at Quivira was signed on July 25.
The newly appointed director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Aurelia Skipwith, signed the memorandum of agreement in St. John. Skipwith, who was brought up in Indiana, said one of the desires of the Wildlife Service is to be a "good neighbor."
This is what neighbors do when fences need mending the come together to agree on a solution.
The agreement calls for implementation of water augmentation, retires some water rights in sensitive areas, moving rights to others, and for the removal of invasive trees from Quivira and Rattlesnake Creek, which flows through the community and the reserve. It’s not the final step, but it's a step in the right direction. A study still needs to take place before all parties can sign off, but it’s forward progress nevertheless.
The News reported that if an agreement had not been reached, the economic impact to the region would cause a reduction in agriculture of more than $300 million a year. The ripple effect would have been enormous.
"We want to make sure we are not just regulating," Moran said. "The ability of farmers in central Kansas to make a living determines the future of the communities in central Kansas. This isn’t only about farmers and ranchers; it is about the future of rural communities."
We agree, Senator. Thank you for stepping in with Director Skipwith to help make this happen.
It appears that your work has created a workable solution for all stakeholders involved. That’s a very neighborly solution. A very Kansas solution.
Keep working to mend those fences neighbors.