Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey spoke at the URNRD’s second annual water conference in Imperial Monday. She shared how Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have been able to put differences aside and work together on water issues in the Republican Basin that face all three states. (Johnson Publications photo)
Here’s real story behind how Nebraska, Kansas resolved their water differences
After nearly 20 years of litigation that twice ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, just how did Kansas and Nebraska finally work out their differences on water in the Republican River Basin?
Those attending the Upper Republican Natural Resources District’s second annual water conference Monday in Imperial heard the real story behind the story.
Beginning in 1998, Kansas sued Nebraska and Colorado, claiming they were using more water from the Republican River than entitled.
A 1945 compact between the three states allocated the basin’s flows: Nebraska, 49 percent; Kansas, 40 percent; and Colorado, 11 percent.
Kansas believed their water users were being cheated out of water that was rightfully theirs due to overuse by the two upstream states.
That first challenge unleashed a series of disputed court proceedings that spanned nearly two decades.
Twice the matter ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2003, the court approved a settlement that would ensure Kansas got the water they were entitled to.
Then came the drought that spanned four years from 2002 to 2006.
After Nebraska and Colorado failed to meet their obligations under the settlement, Kansas started litigation again in 2010.
This time, Kansas not only wanted their water but another $70 million in damages and a shutdown of half of the Nebraska groundwater wells in the basin.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another ruling dealing with the litigation that started in 2010.
Nebraska came out ahead. They only had to pay Kansas $5 million in damages; no shutdown of irrigation was ordered; and they gained better compact accounting and crediting for compliance efforts and credit from imported water from the Platte River Basin.
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