Trial on second Kansas-Nebraska water suit begins
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Monday marked the first day of another trial between Kansas and Nebraska over water use in the Republican Basin.
The trial is being held in Portland, Maine in front of Special Water Master William J. Kayatta, Jr., of Portland.
Kayatta has set aside three weeks for the trial.
Upper Republican Natural Resources District Manager Jasper Fanning will be testifying on behalf of Nebraska in the case. Mike Clements, manager at the Lower Republican NRD, will also testify for Nebraska.
Fanning is expected to be in Portland for the duration of the trial.
Kansas says Nebraska violated the terms of the initial settlement over use of water in the Republican River Basin.
According to Lincoln attorney Don Blankenau, who is serving as a special assistant to the Nebraska Attorney General’s office, Kansas is after two primary remedies: cash and shutdown of 300,000 acres of groundwater irrigation in Nebraska.
Kansas went into arbitration in the fall of 2008, seeking $72 million in damages but came away with nominal damages of only $10,000 and no damages for indirect economic impacts.
However, the arbitrator left the door open for Kansas to substantiate their claims and methodology before a court.
Unsatisfied with the results of non-binding arbitration, Kansas asked the U.S. Supreme Court to re-examine their claims against Nebraska and Colorado.
Blankenau said Kansas now is seeking $50 million in damages, although documents show Kansas says they only suffered $5 million in actual damages.
Nebraska will contend actual damages from its overuse of Republican Basin water in the mid-2000s are far less than Kansas believes.
In the 2008 arbitration, Kansas also sought to reduce Nebraska’s groundwater-irrigated acres in the basin by 515,000 acres to ensure compliance.
The arbitrator sided with Nebraska, saying the compact settlement gave Kansas no authority to tell Nebraska how to stay in compliance.
Now, Kansas is seeking the shutdown of 300,000 groundwater-irrigated acres in the basin.