The United States Supreme Court has ordered Nebraska to pay Kansas $5.5 million to settle a dispute over use of the Republican River.
Nebraska officials call it a victory.
“I think overall the office of the Attorney General is very pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” Justin Lavene, chief of the Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Bureau with the Attorney General’s office.
Lavene says there is much to like in the Supreme Court order.
Though the Supreme Court has awarded Kansas $5.5 million that is much lower than the initial request of $80 million sought by Kansas.
Kansas had asked the court to shut down groundwater irrigation wells covering 300,000 acres in Nebraska. The court declined the request. Lavene credits the work of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Districts in writing new rules and regulations that reduced the use of water from the Republican River, which made the request unnecessary.
The biggest benefit for Nebraska is the adoption of new accounting procedures, the procedures that determine how much water is being allocated and to which state.
Under the 1943 compact, Nebraska receives 49% of the water; Kansas 40%; and Colorado 11%. Nebraska argued that water flowing from the Platte River had been calculated in the allocation, distorting the calculations. The court agreed with a Special Master in the case who recommended the North Platte flow be excluded.
The most positive aspect of the ruling, according to Lavene, is that the ruling removes uncertainty for Nebraska farmers using water from the Republican River to irrigate their crops.
“And so, by having this decision and finalizing the aspect of the accounting change, we’ll know where we’re at with regard to our obligations to the state of Kansas going forward which ultimately will give more certainty to the users in the basin.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]