Topeka Attorney General Steve Six’s office is downplaying a recent setback in an ongoing dispute between his state and Nebraska over the Republican River.
Six was seeking $72 million in damages from Nebraska over what Kansas contends is Nebraska’s continued overuse of river water in 2005 and 2006. Use of the water by Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado is governed by a 2003 decree from the U.S. Supreme Court.
An arbitrator ruled this week that Kansas can seek payment only for damages it allegedly suffered, not for what Nebraska allegedly gained. The decision undercuts Kansas’ claims to millions of dollars.
“This is only a preliminary decision in nonbinding arbitration,” Six spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said.
But Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said the decision could carry significant weight if the water fight does end up again before the Supreme Court.
Kansas contends Nebraska’s water use exceeded what was allowed for 2005 and 2006 by nearly 26 billion gallons, or nearly enough to supply a city of 100,000 for 10 years. Nebraska officials acknowledge some past overuse but contend they’ve taken steps to comply with the court decree.
A 1943 compact allocated 49 percent of the river’s water 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.