The recent government shut down has prompted a dialogue between the Army Corps of Engineers and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism about shifting Corps recreation operations to KDWPT.
In an Oct. 16 letter to Assistant Secretary to the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, Gov. Sam Brownback suggested the time had come transfer Kansas Corps recreation operations to KDWPT.
"Given the call for efficiencies from Washington and many state capitols, in addition to recent events in Washington D.C., it would be my suggestion that the COE consider a policy of divesting their recreation efforts in favor of effectively funding the other responsibilities of their mission which no other entity is capable of doing," said Brownback in his letter.
The letter was sent to Corps district offices and naturally the employees wanted to keep their federal jobs and not see them go over to the states. The governor has not received a response from letter he sent to Darcy, said KDWPT Secretary Robin Jennison.
This is not the first time this change has been considered. On two other occasions, discussions were held on transferring the recreation operations in an effort to avoid a duplication of effort between the Corps and KDWPT, Jennison said.
The key issue is that at several locations in Kansas, the Corps operates a recreation area and KDWPT also operates a recreation area creating a duplication of effort. At some locations, KDWPT has no presence while at other facilities they are the only operating entity.
That is the underlying question; Should two separate units of government do the same thing? Is it the most efficient way to operate the facilities?
With the federal government needing to reduce spending wherever possible, Jennison said he didn't think overseeing recreation at Kansas' reservoirs will remain a priority and they will take a serious look at the need for those operations.
"In the long term it's going to happen anyway," Jennison said. "I just don't think the federal government will continue to fund it."
If, in the future, the government decides recreation is not mission critical to the Corps and takes their funding away, KDWPT would have to scramble to take over those operations.
With their past history in efficient recreation operations as lakes and reservoirs, states can operate the park systems efficiently and be more responsive to the their constituents.
If these discussions get serious and eventually lead to a change in operations, Jennison said he thought it wouldn't be an immediate wholesale change but would take some time. Some time would be necessary because if KDWPT takes over all park operations it would require additional employees and the department doesn't have the budget for that right now.
It would also mean a substantial increase in park revenues so Kansas would benefit greatly from this change.
"I do believe Kansas would be better off if we controlled all the recreational parks," Jennison said.
The Bureau of Reclamation also has several facilities in Kansas but only KDWPT operates parks at those sites.