PUEBLO, COLO. A final report aimed at concluding a century of litigation between Kansas and Colorado over the Arkansas River was issued Friday by Special Master Arthur Littleworth.
"This is the fifth and final report in this case, which includes a proposed judgment and decree that is crafted with the firm intent to end the 100-year history of litigation over rights to the Arkansas River," Littleworth wrote in the introduction to the three-volume report.
The report also includes 19 exhibits, and a proposed judgment and decree. It sets up a plan for arbitration to be used by the states in future years, rather than through prolonged litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court will accept exceptions from the two states during the next two months. There would be a briefing if exceptions are filed, and after that, the court is expected to finalize the judgment and decree.
Kansas filed its case in Supreme Court in 1985, and 10 years later Littleworth ruled Colorado had violated the 1949 compact by excess depletions from well pumping. The decision led to 1996 Colorado well rules that required measurement and augmentation of flows to the Arkansas River. Littleworth also ruled in favor of Colorado on its contention that construction of Lake Pueblo and Trinidad Reservoir did not violate the compact.
Damages in the case include $34.6 million, which Colorado paid in 2005, for depletions of usable water at the state line from 1950-96. Kansas also was awarded $1.1 million in court costs, which Colorado paid in 2006.
The case also sets up a 10-year rolling accounting of flows at the state line, and specifies the model that will be used to determine the flows. The first 10-year period ended in 2006, and showed Colorado had a credit of 3,882 acre-feet. The 10-year period that ended in 2007 also shows no deficit, Littleworth said.
Littleworth's report specifies that any future deficits over a 10-year period must be paid by Colorado on an annual basis.
Littleworth praised former state engineers from both states for working to reach agreement on disputed issues after his last report in 2003.
The court would retain jurisdiction in the case until Dec. 31, 2008, to ensure compliance to the decree.
Supreme Court filings on the Arkansas River began in 1902, when Kansas sued Colorado for the first time, claiming Colorado farmers had used "all of the natural water" in the Arkansas River.