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Archive for Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Water dispute still unresolved

February 5, 2008

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— Kansas' top water resources administrator says a letter he received from Nebraska on Monday did nothing to move the states closer to an agreement in their dispute over Republican River Basin water.

Nebraska Department of Resources Director Ann Bleed said in her letter to David Barfield that she disagrees with the methods Kansas used to measure the overuse of water.

Bleed added that Nebraska pledges to do all it can to achieve compliance with the compact at the root of the dispute.

Barfield, chief engineer with the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources, demanded in a December letter to Bleed that Nebraska shut down irrigation wells within 2.5 miles of the Republican River and its tributaries, plus any wells in the entire basin drilled since 2000.

Barfield also is seeking unspecified monetary damages for compact allocation violations in 2005 and 2006.

Water use from the Republican River is governed by a 2003 decree from the U.S. Supreme Court, which approved a settlement among Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado of a lawsuit filed by Kansas in 1998.

Bleed pointed out in her letter that Nebraska sees flaws and limitations in the processes Kansas used for calculating and accounting for water consumption. Those calculations prompted Kansas' demand of the irrigation well shutdown in Nebraska.

Kansas alleges that Nebraska's water use exceeded what was allowed for 2005-06 by about 27 billion gallons - or enough to supply a city of 100,000 for 10 years.

Bleed wrote that Kansas' proposed remedy requires Nebraska to restrict its use of streamflow to a significantly larger degree than required by the compact.

Kansas uses the Republican River to water about 40,000 acres of cropland northwest of Concordia.

Barfield said Kansas would approach the Republican River Compact Administration about the dispute with Nebraska. It's possible the issue will be on the agenda for a March 11-12 compact meeting.

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