S.B. 523 would require the State Conservation Commission to develop the Kansas Water Quality Buffer Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative would be to restore riparian areas using best management practices. The bill would require the Executive Director of the State Conservation Commission to ensure that the Initiative would be complementary to the Federal Conservation Reserve Program.
The bill also would establish the Kansas Water Quality Buffer Initiative Fund in the State Treasury from which expenditures would be made. Money credited to the Fund would be used for the purpose of making grants to landowners to install water quality best management practices along certain streams.
Further, the bill would require county or district appraisers to identify and map riparian buffers consisting of at least one contiguous acre per parcel of real property. The riparian buffers created by the bill would be valued by the county or district appraiser as tame grass land, native grass land, or waste land, as appropriate. A "riparian buffer" would be defined to mean an area of streamside vegetation that consists of tame or native grass and may include forbs and woody plants; is located along a perennial or intermittent stream, including the stream bank and adjoining floodplain; is created pursuant to the Kansas Water Quality Buffer Initiative, and is a minimum of 66 feet wide and a maximum of 150 feet wide.
This bill was introduced at the request of a spokesperson from the Governor's Office.
At the hearing on the bill, a spokesperson from the Governor's Office indicated that the Governor had included $800,000 in funding for this Initiative. The spokesperson stated that the Initiative would be a voluntary, incentive based program of providing an incentive to landowners for creating a buffer to protect rivers and streams from pollution. This conferee stated that the Initiative would target the Upper Black Vermillion watershed in Marshall and Nemaha Counties and the Grasshopper Creek watershed, located in portions of Atchison and Brown Counties. The conferee also explained the property tax incentive for landowners who install buffer strips and noted that this would provide an additional incentive for landowners to participate in the program.
Also appearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee as proponents of the bill included representatives of the following entities: the State Conservation Commission, the Kansas Forest Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Kansas Audubon Society, the Kansas Farm Bureau, and the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. Written testimony in support of the legislation was distributed from Farmland Industries, the Kansas Fertilizer and Chemical Association, and the Kansas Cooperative Council. There were no opponents to the bill.
The fiscal note states that the FY 1999 Governor's Budget contains $800,000 from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund for the State Conservation Commission to operate the Kansas Water Quality Buffer Initiative program for FY 1999. According to the fiscal note approximately $680,000 of this funding would be allocated to cost-share grants. The remaining $120,000 would be used for technical assistance and to employ an unclassified temporary position of Program Coordinator. The fiscal note states that the State Conservation Commission indicates that the cost of the program in future fiscal years would be related to processing cost-share grants and that these costs would be minimal.
The House Committee on Environment amended the bill so that the State Conservation Commission could enroll land in the program that does not meet the riparian definition in order to improve water quality. The amendment attaches the definition of "riparian buffer" to the tax incentive portion of the bill.
1. *Supplemental notes are prepared by the Legislative Research Department and do not express legislative intent. The supplemental note and fiscal note for this bill may be accessed on the Internet at http://www.ink.org/public/legislative/fulltext-bill.html.