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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kansas lowers water demand to $9 million

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Kansas officials say Nebraska owes their state about $9 million for overusing Republican River water in 2005 and 2006.

Nebraska officials submitted documents to an arbitrator in Denver on Wednesday with a much lower estimate of damages -- $615,000 to $1.23 million.

The arbitrator is expected to make a decision in June.

Kansas had demanded $72 million from Nebraska. But in December, the arbitrator decided that Kansas can seek payment only for damages it suffered, not payment for what Nebraska gained.

Kansas officials say that if arbitration fails, they'll take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a decree in 2003 that governs use of Republican River water. The states must announce in July whether they'll agree to the arbitrator's decision.

In 2005 and 2006, Kansas says, Nebraska used 78,960 acre-feet -- about 25.7 billion gallons -- more than allowed under a three-state compact that dictates use of the river. The compact includes Colorado.

That resulted in an estimated loss of crop yield and revenues for Kansas farmers totaling $4.2 million in 2005 and $4.85 million in 2006, according to documents Kansas submitted to the arbiter.

Nebraska disagrees.

In documents the state filed with the arbitrator, it contends overuse of the river was, at most, 71,475 acre-feet -- about 23.2 billion gallons. Nebraska said Kansas' monetary losses are much lower based on a market price for irrigation water in the affected area of $30 per acre-foot.

Besides demanding a cash settlement, Kansas has said Nebraska should shut down wells that irrigate nearly half of the 1.2 million acres in Nebraska's portion of the river basin.

Nebraska has not met the demand and instead plans to get in compliance with the compact with measures such as buying and leasing water. Kansas officials have called Nebraska's compliance plan inadequate.

The arbitrator is expected to decide whether Kansas' demand that Nebraska shut down irrigation wells is reasonable. But like other decisions made by the arbitrator, it wouldn't be binding.

The Republican River starts in eastern Colorado, flows into Kansas and up to Nebraska and returns to Kansas in Republic County. Its basin covers almost 25,000 square miles.

Under a 1943 river compact signed by the three states, 49 percent of the river's water is allocated to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado.

In 1998, Kansas sued Nebraska, alleging its neighbor to the north violated the compact by allowing thousands of wells to tap the river and its tributaries.

The three states settled that lawsuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decree approved the settlement. But Kansas officials have continued to complain that Nebraska is taking too much water.

On the Net:

Nebraska Department of Natural Resources:

Kansas Department of Agriculture:

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