River case reopened by U.S. Supreme Court

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 5, 2011, 1:16pm


TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed Kansas to proceed with litigation against Nebraska for alleged overuse of water in the Republican River basin, the Kansas Attorney General's Office said.

The Supreme Court, in granting the state's leave to file its petition against Nebraska, reopens the 1998 litigation that Kansas brought against Nebraska and Colorado based on the Republican River Compact that the three states signed in 1943.

The three states reached a negotiated settlement of the 1998 litigation, and the Supreme Court in 2003 entered a decree approving the terms of the settlement.

Kansas now alleges Nebraska violated both the settlement decree and the compact by overusing more than 78,000 acre-feet of water during a two-year period from 2005 to 2006.

In May, Kansas sought permission to ask the Supreme Court to reopen the case and enforce the terms of the settlement. The nation's high court on Monday granted the state permission to proceed.

"We expect Nebraska to live up to our prior agreement governing water flow in the Republican River," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement.

"Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allows us to proceed and gives Kansas the chance to press our case and protect our state's and citizens' interests."

The federal government supported Kansas' request to reopen the case to enforce the settlement agreement. In its filing on the matter, the government expressed concerns about the effects of Nebraska's groundwater pumping on the federal water projects in the Republican River basin.

The Court on Monday also appointed a special master for the case, William J. Kayatta, Jr., who practices with the Pierce Atwood firm in Portland, Maine. The special master functions like a trial judge in Supreme Court cases involving the states. He is authorized to take evidence and to make reports and recommendations to the Court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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