U.S. Water News Online
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- It has been at the mercy of nature to
provide ample rain, often coming within days of being bone dry. Now
the Kickapoo tribe is taking its case for building the Plum Creek
Reservoir to court.
The tribe has been trying to build a dam on the Delaware River in
northeastern Kansas to provide a cleaner, reliable source of water
for the reservation. The reliance on natural stream flow is not an
"We go back and forth to the edge, so to speak," said Damon
Williams, a tribal attorney.
Dry spells force the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to pay
to have water trucked in.
A lawsuit was filed in June in U.S. District Court in Topeka
against state and federal officials for blocking the proposed
reservoir, saying the tribe's needs are being ignored. The Kickapoo
asked the court to compel the watershed board to condemn the land.
While the dam would be on the reservation, the resulting reservoir
would flood adjacent farmland which has landowners upset.
"Water is life. We need good, safe, dependable drinking water,"
said Steve Cadue, tribal chairman. "If this were a white man
community project, it would already be done."
The Kickapoo watershed plan began in 1983 to mitigate flooding
around Lake Perry, into which the Delaware flows. Dicussions
culminated in 1994 with an agreement to develop the project,
including the Plum Creek Reservoir for the Kickapoo.
Several portions of the project have been built using federal and
local funding, including ponds for landowners and smaller portions of
the Delaware and its tributaries.
The stumbling block has been negotiations between the Kickapoo and
about a dozen landowners who live in close proximity to the proposed
"My property's not for sale," said Linda Lierz, whose farm would
become floodland for the reservoir. "We'd have to move our farmstead,
and we're not willing to do that."
She and others say the Kickapoo have other options, including
running lines to nearby towns to the reservation.
Cadue and others said the Nemaha Brown Watershed board, which is
developing the projects, could use eminent domain to take the land,
if necessary, but records show such decisions have been delayed over
property owners' objections.
A September 2003 request by the Kickapoo to have the U.S.
Department of Interior condemn the land instead of local authorities
also has been denied.
Dexter Davis, president of the watershed board, said he didn't
feel one way or the other about using eminent domain to acquire the
"We would like to build everything in the plan," Davis said.
The Kickapoo filed a request Nov. 7 asking for partial summary
judgment to compel the watershed board to condemn the land.
Cadue said legal action was required by the 2003 drought and
inaction by the watershed board.
"We knew we had to do something," Cadue said. "We could not
continue to rely on the white man's word of honor."
The case is Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation
in Kansas v. Alren Lancaster, et al. No. 06-2248 CM-DJW.
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