Principal Research Analyst
Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) are a tool that allows groundwater management districts (GMDs) to conserve water by setting goals and control measures. LEMAs must be approved by the Chief Engineer, which is the statutorily created head of the Division of Water Resources within the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
In 2012, GMDs were granted statutory authority under KSA 82a-1041 to recommend the approval of LEMAs to the Chief Engineer. According to the statute, LEMA plans must:
- Propose clear geographic boundaries;
- Pertain to an area wholly within the GMD;
- Propose goals and corrective control provisions adequate to meet the stated goals;
- Give due consideration to water users who already have implemented reductions in water use resulting in voluntary conservation measures;
- Include a compliance monitoring and enforcement element; and
- Be consistent with state law.
Overview of Process
Goals and Plan. A GMD develops a goal and plan for a LEMA and submits it to the Chief Engineer.
Review of Plan. The Chief Engineer reviews the GMD’s proposed LEMA to make sure it meets the statutory requirements.
Initial Hearing. If the Chief Engineer finds the GMD’s proposed LEMA acceptable for consideration, then the Chief Engineer provides notice of an initial hearing within 30 days. The initial hearing determines whether conditions warrant the implementation of the LEMA, including:
- Whether one or more of the following circumstances listed in KSA 82a-1036(a)-(d) exist:
- Groundwater levels are declining excessively;
- Rate of groundwater withdrawal exceeds the rate of groundwater recharge;
- Unreasonable deterioration of groundwater quality has or may occur; or
- That other conditions warranting additional regulation to protect public interest exist.
- Whether public interest or existing GMD law requires that one or more corrective control provisions be adopted; and
- Whether the geographic boundaries are reasonable.
Subsequent Hearing. The second public hearing determines whether the proposed corrective controls are adequate to help alleviate the identified problems and whether the LEMA plan should be adopted.
Decision and Order. The Chief Engineer must issue an order of decision within 120 days of accepting the plan, rejecting the plan, or returning it to the GMD. If the LEMA plan is accepted, then an order of designation is issued within a reasonable time.
Currently, there are three LEMAs that have been approved by the Chief Engineer:
- Sheridan County 6 LEMA;
- GMD 4 LEMA; and
- Wichita County LEMA.
One proposed LEMA, the Rattlesnake/Quivira LEMA, did not receive approval from the Chief Engineer. Its approval process was discontinued in 2019.