U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- Colorado would pay Kansas millions of dollars in
damages for Arkansas River Compact violations under guidelines set
forth in a draft report by a special master of the U.S. Supreme
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar released a copy of Special
Master Arthur Littleworth's findings in the long-standing water
dispute between the neighboring states.
In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted Littleworth's findings
that Colorado had depleted flows in the Arkansas to the detriment of
farmers in southwestern Kansas.
In the draft proposal, Littleworth recommends the court award
Kansas $9 million in damages on the present-day value of farm
irrigation losses caused by water depletions at the state line, as
well as interest.
The findings do not indicate an interest amount, but Littleworth
said interest would go back only to 1968. Kansas had sought $53
million of interest back to 1950.
Littleworth confined his report to the legal issues and methods
for calculating damages.
He said neither state knew as early as 1950, the first year the
compact was in operation, that Colorado wells would deplete the
Arkansas River flow at the Kansas state line.
But by 1968, Colorado should have known its wells would harm
farmers in southwestern Kansas, according to the special master
appointed by the court as a hearing officer to conduct the case and
In a key ruling, Littleworth rejected Colorado's argument that the
lawsuit violates the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, barring
citizens of one state from suing another sovereign state.
Lawyers for both states have until July 28 to comment before
Littleworth finalizes his report and submits it to the U.S. Supreme
Court in the fall. Lawyers then may submit exceptions to the court.
The Supreme Court could issue a final decision next year, or it
could prolong the 15-year-old case further by returning remaining
issues in dispute to the special master for additional findings.
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