Kansas taxpayers save $30 million after waterway debts paid

FILE - Milford Lake
FILE - Milford Lake(WIBW)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 1:38 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas taxpayers have saved more than $30 million in future interest payments with the early payment of two state debts.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says on Tuesday, Sept. 20, that by paying off state debt on essential water storage ahead of schedule, her administration has saved taxpayers more than $30 million.

“I believe in fiscal responsibility, and by paying down reservoir debt early, millions of dollars can now be directed toward things like reducing taxes, fully funding schools, and investing in law enforcement and infrastructure,” Gov. Kelly said. “These payments also help secure a reliable water supply for Kansas residents and businesses, now and for years to come.”

Kelly noted that the administration accomplished the task through two water projects.

The first, the Governor said, she signed into law in 2022 with Senate Bill 267 to include a payment of nearly $80 million in debt owed by the state to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for water supply storage in certain federal reservoirs in the Sunflower State.

Kelly indicated that the $80 million payment eliminated debt owed for Clinton Lake, Hillsdale Lake, and Big Hill Lake and will also help pay down additional debt owed for Perry Lake and Milford Lake. She said the investment in reservoir water supply storage will save the state about $27.6 million in interest payments that would have been made over the lifetime of these contracts.

The second, Kelly said she recommended in her FY 2022 budget, was agreed upon by the Legislature to pay $332.3 million in bonded debt off early - including the bond issued for the dredging project at John Redmond Reservoir which restored water supply capacity needed to operate the Wolf Creek nuclear plant. She said the state had paid about $1.6 million each year against the debt.

By paying off the reservoir debt about 8 years ahead of schedule, Kelly said the state will save about $3.2 million in future interest payments.

“This early paydown reflects responsible financial judgment,” Kansas Water Office Director Connie Owen said. “Taxpayers will receive a tremendous savings, as well as a more dependable water supply into the future.”

Kelly indicated that her administration has led the way to make water protection a top priority for the Sunflower State.

In 2022, Kelly said she completely funded the State Water Plan - a multi-agency effort to protect a reliable statewide water supply - for the first time in more than 14 years. She said Kansas water resource priorities that benefit from this investment include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Irrigation technology and education for agricultural water conservation of the Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer;
  • Water reuse and reclamation projects for dairies and feedyards,
  • Local-level adoption of Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and Water Conservation Areas (WCAs),
  • Financial assistance supporting the adoption of soil and water practices; and
  • Farmer-to-farmer education on soil health and other water conservation practices.

Also in 2022, Kelly said her administration issued the first update of the Kansas Water Plan since 2009. She said the plan is developed by the Kansas Water Office and approved by the Kansas Water Authority from input provided by local, state, federal, and regional partners.

Through the efforts of her administration, Kelly said a water injection dredging demonstration project will now be able to begin at Tuttle Creek Lake to remove accumulated sediment that has decreased the lake’s water supply storage capacity which helps serve more than 800,000 Kansans.

The Governor said planning efforts for the latest demonstration, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are currently underway.