Citizens be aware: St. John resident issues call to action over local water rights

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
In this screenshot of the St. John City Council on February 2, 2021, concerned resident and retired St. John veterinarian Dr. Jim Doran, speaks to city council members about the coming implications of the water rights lawsuit filed by Audubon of Kansas against the state. Doran said the impact of this threat on farmers rights to use water in Stafford County could be far-reaching.

St. John retired veterinarian Dr. Jim Doran issued a call to action for St. John City Council members to be proactive regarding the Audubon of Kansas recent lawsuit relating to Quivera National Wildlife Refuge water rights.

“Be aware,” Dr. Doran said, addressing council members at their February 2 meeting. “Talk to your compatriots at the county and in other cities and see what you need to do or can do to join them.”

St. John Council President Marshal Sanders presided with Council Members Ryan Christie, Kyle Bunker, Esai Macias and Ross Fisher all in attendance.

Dr. Doran, a former St. John City Council member, told council members that the Audubon lawsuit impact poses an economic threat that could be far reaching.

“You need to be a part of this,” Doran said, referencing the negative economic impact the Audubon suit could have on the city, schools and banks.

Contacted about the possible impact of the Audubon lawsuit, Stafford County Economic Development Executive Director Carolyn Dunn confirmed Dr. Doran’s concerns.

“Before the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the U.S. Department of Interior and GMD 5 was established, Stafford County EcoDevo estimated the direct economic impact of the proposed reductions in water would be at least $325 million a year in reduction of crop and animal agriculture,” Dunn said. “The ripple effect could approach $750 million or more per year.”  

The findings of the Stafford County EcoDevo include this projection: “The small businesses and governmental entities that exist in this part of the state, with small budgets to begin with, do not have the ability to withstand the drastic cuts proposed.  It will fuel further population decline and consolidation of schools and businesses.”