U.S. Water News Online
TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas attorney general's office still
doesn't expect to get any money out of Colorado anytime soon in the
long-running dispute over the Arkansas River.
And some Kansas legislators are frustrated.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Colorado diverted
millions of gallons of river water to which Kansas was legally
entitled. That decision came 10 years after Kansas sued, claiming
Colorado violated a 1949 river compact.
Last year, the court ruled Kansas is entitled to money as well as
water from Colorado. But since then, the two states have been arguing
before a special court-appointed master over how much.
Colorado's figure for monetary damages is between $20 million and
$25 million, while Kansas puts the number at $53 million. Kansas has
spent roughly $17 million on the lawsuit.
John Campbell, senior deputy attorney general, said the master's
next report to the justices isn't expected until the fall of 2003 --
months after the 2003 fiscal year ends. It's possible the Supreme
Court may not rule before the end of the 2004 fiscal year, he said.
``In litigation, you never really know how fast it's going to
go,'' Campbell said.
Campbell spent met with members of the Legislative Budget
Committee, briefing them about the state's lawsuit against Colorado
and another against Nebraska over the Republican River. That session
was closed to the public.
The chairman, Sen. Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he is frustrated
by the delay in getting the case resolved, adding, ``It just seems
like it's taking forever.''
Another committee member, Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said:
``Colorado hired the best lawyers money can buy to stall. If they
were inclined to get it settled, it could be done relatively
In Denver, Joan Padilla, assistant attorney general, said Colorado
officials anticipate a ruling from the special master by year's end.
``There is still a significant issue as to the amount of money to
which the state of Kansas is entitled,'' Padilla said.
Campbell's assessment of how long it will take Kansas to see any
money comes as the state is struggling financially. Gov. Bill Graves
recently cut $41 million from the budget because state revenues
aren't living up to expectations.
But a 1996 Kansas law limits how the state could spend money
received from Colorado to litigation costs and water conservation
projects in the Arkansas River basin in southwest and south-central
Neufeld said for people in his area, an increased flow of water is
more important than money, because people assume attorneys fees will
eat up most of the dollars.
Any resolution of the lawsuit with Nebraska over the Republican
River appears years away.
Kansas filed the lawsuit against Nebraska in 1998, and another
special master has yet to rule on Kansas' claim that Nebraska allowed
the river to be depleted as it flows into north-central Kansas. In
fact, Campbell said a trial before the special master isn't expected
to begin until next summer.
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