City approves Sunflower water rights, easement settlement
The De Soto City Council last Thursday approved a settlement with Sunflower Redevelopment L.L.C. needed to make necessary upgrades for the Sunflower water treatment plant and move ahead with a possible wholesale water cooperative.
The agreement, which still needs the approval of the Sunflower Redevelopment board of directors, would:
• Provide the city easements through Sunflower for electrical and water to the treatment plant.
• Lease the four iconic water towers on Sunflower to the city for 30 years.
• Provide an irrevocable lease for the use of raw water mains between the well field an the treatment plant.
• Permanently transfer to the city 2 million gallons a day of water right No. 38 — the underground water rights associated with the well fields west of De Soto — along with six of the 12 wells in the well field. And agree to transfer as much as 3 million more if the city has a need.
Once the considerable paperwork for those provisions are in place, the city will dismiss a legal action against Sunflower Redevelopment and the Kansas Division of Water Resources asking that Sunflower's water rights be abandoned.
The city has been at odds with the Kansas Division of Water Resources and Sunflower Redevelopment since the state agency decided all the water rights associated now-defunct Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant were transferred to Sunflower Redevelopment and three state or local entities — Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department, Kansas University and Kansas State University — which received Sunflower property through public benefit transfers with the federal transfer.
The city's legal filing argued water right No. 38 as an anachronism of Sunflower's production days and said the right should be abandoned and reassigned with demonstrated needs. It cited a Kansas statute former Rep. John Ballou shepherded through the Kansas Legislature when Oz Entertainment Inc. was negotiating for Sunflower, which reserved for the Legislature any transfer of the Sunflower water rights. The statute required the water rights be returned to the state and terminated or held in trust by the state while specifically forbidding the Kansas Water Office (a different agency from the Kansas Water Resource Office, which actually assigns water rights) from assigning, transferring or disposing of the water rights.
At the request of Sunflower Redevelopment, the city put the legal action on hold while negotiations continued.