Topeka Kansas Supreme Court justices Tuesday questioned whether they should get into a Douglas County case that involves a fight over condemnation of land and acquisition of water rights.
The dispute is over a move by Public Water Supply District No. 25 to condemn several acres of farmland for the purpose of drilling test water wells. The district also has applied for new water rights for groundwater in the area.
Bradley Finkeldei, an attorney representing landowners Gregory and Charlee Shipe, said the water district doesn’t have the right to seek a water right through condemnation proceedings.
“They can condemn land but not for the purpose of acquiring water rights,” Finkeldei said.
But Justice Lee Johnson argued that there is no water right there currently. That issue is being decided by the state’s Division of Water Resources, he said.
Justice Marla Luckert said that the court may not be in a position to decide the matter since there was an administrative process going on to determine the water rights.
“Aren’t we an action ahead of where these arguments should be?” Luckert said.
Gary Hanson, an attorney representing the water district, said the landowners were properly paid through condemnation proceedings for the temporary “taking” of their land. Shipe was awarded $1,310, but he said he didn’t take it.
But Hanson said the groundwater belongs to the state, not the landowners because no water right there has been allocated.
“It’s not their water,” he said.