Members of the Kentucky Water Resources Board have ranked a State Water Plan as priority the project for the Commonwealth, if the state wants to secure water availability for the future. The board was put together last year to advise the Environment and Energy Cabinet (EEC) on water issues like drought preparedness, they met last week in Frankfort.
Eleven members from the EEC, the Department of Agriculture as well as representatives from conservation offices, local government, the University of Kentucky and businesses make up the board.
Kentucky Waterways Alliance Policy Director Bijaya Shrestha sat with the public as she attended her first meeting. She said she was surprised the board neglected to mention the stream protection rule.
“Congress passed a resolution to disapprove of the stream protection rule that was finalized by the Obama Administration and this board did not talk about it at all, which I think is surprising because the rule would have protected eastern and western kentucky communities that are affected by coal mining.” Shrestha said.
Shrestha said the board seemed to be ill prepared.
“I think they could have planned it better, it seemed like they didn't do a lot of preliminary things that should have been done before trying to decide some of the things they want to do in the future.” Shrestha said.
After the meeting, EEC Secretary Charles Snavely said data didn’t support a need for the stream protection rule in Eastern Kentucky.
“There was a lot of hype and emotion around that stream protection rule, that it was necessary because the streams were being destroyed, but the data on the streams in Eastern Ky does not back that up. So I don't think that was needed.” Snavely commented.
Snavely said the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) totally blocked the state of Kentucky out of that whole process. “We were minimally involved...We had no way, the people or the funding, to implement it and it would pretty well shut down mining. So we were against it, so we are in favor of the passage of the resolution today.”
Focusing on the Water Resources Board, Snavely said the effort to develop a State Water Plan is a “collaborative effort with a concern around droughts in Kentucky and long term water management, because the agriculture community is growing in Kentucky and they are consuming large amounts of water.” Snavely said.
Snavely said addressing concerns know is better than waiting until it becomes an issue. “Obviously the agriculture community is the group that gets cut off first if you have a drought because drinking water is first priority. So the purpose of this group is to try to acquire the data and the data collection system so that we know a lot about our water supply and our water demands so that we can make better decisions in the future. So, it’s really a long term objective.”
The State Water Plan is projected to take 5 years to complete. The first step will be towards a comprehensive statewide inventory of water availability, a task the state will attempt for the first time.
Kentucky Waterways Alliance Policy Director Bijaya Shrestha said she intends to attend the next meeting as well to influence stronger protection for the waterways.