|Arbitrator asks for more time before rendering water decision|
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Arbitrator Karl Dreher requested two more weeks before announcing his ruling in a water dispute between Nebraska and Kansas.
After hearing testimony from both sides in March, Dreher said he would render his decision by June 16.
People have been anxiously anticipating Dreher’s ruling on compact compliance issues between the two states.
Upper Republican Natural Resources District Manager Jasper Fanning told The Imperial Republican this week that Dreher asked for two additional weeks. Dreher’s decision will be announced on or before Tuesday, June 30.
Initial rulings favor Nebraska
In preliminary rulings by Dreher in December, 2008, Nebraska and its irrigators got two key rulings in their favor from Dreher.
The two rulings addressed damages due Kansas by Nebraska’s non-compliance with the compact in 2005 and 2006, and the accounting methods used to determine compliance.
Kansas sought damages based on the gain Nebraska got from its alleged overuse of water. Estimates as high as $75 million have been tossed out by Kansas.
Dreher ruled Kansas could seek only actual damages it suffered.
To receive damages for water-short years 2005 and 2006, Kansas will have to show actual damages, the arbitrator said.
Estimates place damages in the $5-10 million range.
Dreher also allowed compact accounting methods to be corrected if errors are found.
The Department of Natural Resources has indicated they have found flaws in the computer groundwater models used to determine compliance.
WaterClaim founder Steve Smith of Imperial has long contended the models used by the states are inaccurate and that changes need to be made.
Dreher said the compact can’t be adequately enforced without accurate accounting. As a result, he said any errors found are open for resolution by the compact members.
Arbitration is non-binding
The arbitrator’s upcoming decision remains non-binding upon the three compact states, which also include Colorado.
Any of the three states can file suit with the U.S. Supreme Court over the disputes if they are not satisfied by the arbitration decision.