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Supreme Court sides with Kansas in water dispute

•  Legal Marketing     updated  2015/02/25 09:45



The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Nebraska to pay Kansas $5.5 million in a long-running legal dispute over use of water from the Republican River.

The justices also gave Nebraska some of what it asked for and ordered changes to the formula for measuring water consumption. Nebraska argued that the formula was unfair.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing the majority opinion, said the court was adopting the recommendations of the independent expert the justices appointed to help resolve the states' differences.

The dispute centers on a 1943 compact allocating 49 percent of the river's water to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado. Since 1999, Kansas has complained that Nebraska uses more than its fair share of water from the river, which originates in Colorado and runs mostly through Nebraska before ending in Kansas.

"Both remedies safeguard the compact; both insist that states live within its law," Kagan wrote.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson's office said it was pleased with the decision. The $5.5 million award is significantly less than the $80 million that Kansas had sought.

"We hope the decision will move the basin states forward and provide continued incentives toward shared solutions to our common problems," the office said in a statement. "We are confident that payment of the court's recommended award will finally allow us to leave the past where it belongs — in the past."

While calling the decision "reasonable," Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he looked forward to working with his Kansas and Colorado counterparts to move forward.

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