April 23, 2014

Special Master rules in favor of Nebraska in Republican River dispute

A Special Master has recommended Nebraska pay $5.5 million to Kansas to settle a dispute between the two states over water used in the Republican River Basin.

Special Master William Kayatta rejected a demand by Kansas that Nebraska pay $80 million to compensate for irrigators using more water from the Republican River than allotted in a compact between the two states.

“We’re pleased Special Master Kayatta rejected Kansas’ demand for $80 million in damages and future restrictions on water use,” said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning in a written statement released by his office. “Our basin irrigators have worked hard to keep Nebraska in compliance with the Compact on an annual basis since 2007. And, although we think the $5.5 million award is too high, were glad the Special Master acknowledged Nebraska should have the right to govern its water users without the oversight of an independent River Master.”

According to the Attorney General’s office, the Special Master found Nebraska correctly identified a problem with the RRCA Accounting Procedures. Kayatta recommended the 5-Run Solution recommended by Nebraska be adopted.

Kayatta found that Kansas failed to prove its $80 million damage claims, because it could not show Nebraska acted in bad faith. He recommended that all of the evaporation from Harlan County Lake in 2006 should be charged to Kansas. Kayatta rejected Kansas’ demand to shut down irrigation to 302,000 in Nebraska. He also found no credible threat that Nebraska would not comply with the compact in the future.

The United States Supreme Court will review the final report and should issue a ruling sometime next year.

 

A copy of the report can be found here.

A copy of the report appendices can be found here.