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Topic: Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources (DWR)

Dave Pope, Kansas

Interview of David Pope, September 19, 2020

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this 2019 oral history interview, David Pope describes how the awareness of declining water levels in the High Plains Aquifers in Kansas led to efforts to support wise use and responsible management of groundwater in the state. He describes being hired to address groundwater issues from the local perspective and how he was involved in the creation the Groundwater Management District (GMD) in southwest Kansas. As Assistant Chief Engineer of the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources and later Chief Engineer, Pope was involved in a state policy limiting new groundwater development, referred to as planned Show Moredepletion, along with efforts to develop regulations on water management to replace the prior ad hoc approach. Pope discusses his dealings the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in assuring minimal desirable streamflow to satisfy municipal and industrial water users along with conservation and recreation interests. He describes the complex interplay of surface and groundwater use policies which became a politically highly charged issue in addressing the Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands issue, Pope explains how the water law premise of "first in time, first in right" has been modified with amendments and regulations that require the filing of water rights, development of conservation plans to assure the beneficial use of water, mandatory metering of water use, and closure of areas for new water rights, all based on hydrologic studies. He concludes that although some GMDs have not tackled long-term depletion problems in western Kansas, two districts have adopted successful strategies: safe yield rules adopted by Groundwater Management District No. 2, and the creation of the Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) in Sheridan County to regulate irrigation. Pope describes those successes and speculates on why others have not been as successful. Show Less
Lee Rolfs, Kansas

Interview of Leland (Lee) Rolfs, October 28, 2019

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this oral history interview recorded in 2019, Lee Rolfs explains that few regulations governed water use when he began working at the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture in 1978. He describes how the State responded to depletion of the Ogallala aquifer by creating Groundwater Management Districts (GMD) to manage future development, and to create a comprehensive system to address water issues. Rolfs recalls how the policy positions switched over time from the State being reluctant to regulate groundwater use when the GMDs initially sought restrictions to the opposite, with the GMDs opposing regulations Show Morewhen the State sought to impose them. He recalls his work on ground-breaking litigation with Colorado over water in the Arkansas River (Kansas v. Colorado). That case spanned over 25 years of his career with the State. Rolfs expounds on the Water Appropriation Act and its importance in the development of Kansas and its limitations in addressing the issue of long-term declines in the water table. He observes that cooperation, knowledge, and education are essential for properly managing water in Kansas. Show Less
Joyce Wolf, Kansas

Interview of Joyce Wolf, November 15, 2019

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
During her 2019 oral history interview, Joyce Wolf talks about her background working with environmental organizations on a variety of environmental issues. With a degree in bacteriology, she became interested in water quality issues before the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wolf worked with Jan Garton, a key figure in environmental advocacy in Kansas, and a coalition of environmental groups supporting water rights for the Cheyenne Bottoms wetland area under the banner of “Save Our Bottoms.” Wolf was also involved in debates over the low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities. She elaborates in this interview on the Show Moresuccess of the coalition achieving an arrangement for adequate water supply for Cheyenne Bottoms and funding of the State Water Plan during the administration of Gov. Mike Hayden. Wolf recalls that environmental organizations were also concerned about the silting-in of the federal reservoirs, the decline of the Ogallala aquifer, the conflict over the Arkansas River that led to the Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit, and the loss of surface water in western Kansas. Wolf also discusses the cultural differences between Kansas and Minnesota that appears to reflect a lack of appreciation of the natural environment in Kansas. Show Less
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