More than 500 participants -- an overflow crowd -- gathered in Manhattan on Wednesday to begin a two-day Governor's Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas.
Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said more than 700 people wanted to attend this year's conference, but the venue in Manhattan had space for only a few more than 500.
Gov. Sam Brownback was the introductory speaker for the opening of the conference, and said that now is the time to begin the implementation of the 50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas and begin working to achieve the goals laid out by 14 regional advisory groups.
The governor told the crowd that work will begin today on an enormous, multi-year dredging project to increase the capacity of the most silted-in reservoir in the state, John Redmond. The project breaks new ground in water history because it is the first time ever that a state is paying for work on a federal reservoir.
Brownback said two years of meetings, organizing, research and goal-setting are done and it is time to move forward with implementation.
"We know this aquifer; we know these reservoirs. We have a framework for the first Water Conservation Areas that allow neighbors to voluntarily conserve water. We have water right flex accounts. Now it is time to move forward," the governor said.
Brownback also used his time in front of the group to defend his executive order prohibiting the spending of any state money on the re-settlement of Syrian refugees in Kansas, saying that his first and most important job is to protect Kansas residents.
"My heart goes out to Paris and what its people have suffered," Brownback said. "We are reminded of what just a few terrorists can do."
He also said he opposes the relocation of any of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Kansas or anyplace else on the U.S. mainland.