Kansas Aqueduct

Kansas Aqueduct
The Hays Daily News • Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014
An illustration contained in a preliminary report by engineers updating a 1982 Corps of Engineers proposal for a Kansas Aqueduct, shows where a terminal reservoir near Utica.
Aqueduct, F
rom A1
According to the latest figures
available from the state treasurer’s
office, Kansas has a total debt of
$22.5 billion.
That debt hails from every city
county, township, school district
and every hospital, fire and sewer
district in Kansas. That $22.5 billion also includes state highway
programs, rural water projects
and even debt undertaken for the
Kansas Turnpike Authority, a payits-own-way toll road in eastern
The cost isn’t actually an estimate, but simply a index of where
the 1982 costs might be today.
Mark Rude, executive director
of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3
and perhaps the aqueduct’s greatest
promoter, is undaunted by the cost.
He’s just not sure how much
water the project should go after, or
how the cost would be shared.
Utica resident Jeff Johnson can’t
be counted as among the supporters of the project, and recently, for
the first time, saw a map of where
a terminal reservoir — covering
nearly 25,000 acres, stretching
nearly 10 miles across — would be
He would have been standing
under water as he looked at the map.
In fact, nearly his entire farm
would be swallowed up by the
reservoir, and his father’s house
would effectively become lakefront
“I hope it never happens in mine
or my kids’ lifetime,” he said after
being shown the map by The Hays
Daily News shortly after he stepped
down from his swather to check for
a hydraulic leak. “It would put an
end to us.
“That takes out about everything
we’ve got except the high ground.”
Johnson also wonders how the
gently rolling hills would be suitable
for building what would be the largest reservoir in Kansas.
“This is not going to hold water,”
Johnson said. “This is somebody’s
pipe dream along here.”
Johnson said he had never seen
the map, nor had he ever heard
from any state or federal officials
about the project, first floated by
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
in 1982, resuscitated for renewed
study last year by Rude and the
GMD3 water district.
Johnson’s grandfather bought
Cattle lazily graze along the north fork of Walnut Creek in northwest Ness County.
the makings of today’s farming
operations back in the 1940s, and
Johnson said he and “a lot of other
families” would be hurt by the lake.
“People down south don’t want
to hear it, but the more feasible
thing is if they stop irrigating, I suppose,” he said.
At the urging of the GMD, the
Kansas Water Office and the Corps
joined together to revisit the plan,
to examine if it’s even feasible to
consider. That review is expected to
cost nearly $300,000.
In the meantime, the 15-member aqueduct advisory committee
— lacking anyone from the Utica
area — has met twice to discuss
the project and get updates on its
That committee meets again
Wednesday in Ulysses, following a
guided tour by Rude, a tour that’s
designed to show how “efficient we
are and how valuable it is.”
Because it lacks meeting space,
Rude said Utica’s being bypassed
in favor of Ulysses, where there’s
demand for water from the proj-
ect. The water would be used to
either to augment water from the
Ogallala Aquifer or replenish the
underground water system upon
which millions of acres of irrigation
farmland is dependent on.
But the committee in August
visited White Cloud in northeast
That’s near where dozens —
perhaps hundreds — of wells could
be located in the Missouri River,
pumping water during periods
of high flow into a 13,000-acre
reservoir acting as a holding facility,
slowly releasing water into the aqueduct to flow southwest to Utica.
Northeast Kansas residents apparently spoke against the plan as
well, talking about the thousands
of acres of farmland, growing corn
without tapping into an ancient
source of water, such as the Ogallala, would be inundated by the reservoir. Representatives of the Iowa
Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska also
spoke against the plan, concerned
about the their heritage that might
be lost.
For Rude, there’s still a host of
questions to be asked and answered, including how much water
is needed, who would get it and
who would pay the cost.
Tentatively, he said, the current
thinking is to ask for 6 million acre
feet of water — nearly 2 trillion gallons of water a year.
Recent reviews suggest anywhere
from 4 to 7 million acre feet of water might be available annually.
Western Kansas irrigators use
MIKE CORN • Hays Daily News
3 million acre feet of water, nearly
1 trillion gallons of water, to grow
crops on nearly 4 million acres of
That’s why it’s now a question of
downsizing the project, to make it
closer to affordable, or make it bigger and meet other water demands
in the region.
“The demand for water in this
area is tremendous,” Rude said. “I
would say I’m very encouraged by
what we’ve seen so far.”
ABOVE LEFT: Utica farmer Jeff Johnson drives through a patch of swather-high feed several miles south of Utica, in an area that would be underwater if a proposal to build a cross-state
aqueduct to transport water from the Missouri River to an as-yet proposed reservoir. ABOVE RIGHT: A scenic spot along the north fork of Walnut Creek in northwest Ness County.