Republican River Basin: Supreme Court finds Nebraska liable for ‘reckless’ water use — The Kansas City Kansan

Republican River Basin by District
Republican River Basin by District

From the Kansas City Kansan:

In a 28-page majority opinion, the court unanimous agreed that Nebraska “knowingly” violated the Republican River Compact and took water that belonged to Kansas.

As a remedy, the Supreme Court ordered by a 6-3 vote that Nebraska not only must pay Kansas’ actual damages from loss of water during those two dry years but also must “disgorge” a portion of the economic gain Nebraska received from higher yields from irrigating crops with water that should have been sent downstream to Kansas.

“Nebraska recklessly gambled with Kansas’s rights, consciously disregarding a substantial probability that its actions would deprive Kansas of the water to which it was entitled,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court’s majority. “That is nearly a recipe for breach [of the Compact that governs sharing of Republican River water]—for an upstream State to refuse to deliver to its downstream neighbor the water to which the latter is entitled. And through 2006, Nebraska took full advantage of its favorable position, eschewing steps that would effectively control groundwater pumping and thus exceeding its allotment. In such circumstances, a disgorgement award appropriately reminds Nebraska of its legal obligations, deters future violations, and promotes the Compact’s successful administration.

”Schmidt noted that the Supreme Court never before had ordered disgorgement of an upstream state’s unjust gains as a remedy in an interstate water dispute.

“Legally, this is a groundbreaking case that vindicates Kansas’s rights as a downstream state,” Schmidt said. “We brought this lawsuit to encourage our neighbors to live up to their obligations in future dry periods. I’m hopeful this strong and clear Supreme Court order will have that effect.”

The Supreme Court ordered Nebraska to repay Kansas $3.7 million to compensate for Kansas’s actual economic losses during 2005-06 and another $1.8 million as partial disgorgement of Nebraska’s unjust gains from illegally using Kansas water.

That $5.5 million recovery will be used to fully reimburse the attorney general’s office for its roughly $4.5 million in bringing the lawsuit and defending Kansas water rights, making the State of Kansas whole for its cost of litigation. The remainder will be available to the legislature to designate for other purposes as provided by law.

The Supreme Court also ordered technical changes to the calculation of future water flows from the Platte River basin into the Republican River basin as requested by Nebraska. The decision to order that reformation of the accounting procedure was 5-4.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.

NIDIS: Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin February 1 thru 22, 2015 precipitation
Upper Colorado River Basin February 1 thru 22, 2015 precipitation

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Denver Water: @hickforco Forum on Colorado Ag to focus on water needs across state

Do you know your snowpack?

Mile High Water Talk

Do you know your snowpack?

9 facts about Colorado snowpack: what it is, why it’s important and how we tell how much of it we have.

By Steve Snyder

You may have seen this map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of Colorado. It shows how much snowpack we have in Colorado this year compared to normal. But what is normal? For that matter, what is snowpack, and what does it have to do with our water supply? Our Denver Water experts answer these questions and more in the slideshow below:

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The Aspinall Unit operations meeting minutes are hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

Aspinall Unit dams
Aspinall Unit dams

Click here to read the minutes from the recent Aspinall Unit Operations meeting.

Snowpack news: San Luis Valley hit hard by storm — the Valley Courier

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 24, 2015 via the NRCS
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 24, 2015 via the NRCS

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

After unseasonably warm temperatures and extended periods with no precipitation, this past weekend began to make up for some of the winter the Valley had missed so far.

Weekend snowfall reports ranged from 8 inches in Alamosa to nearly a foot farther south in Conejos County and 39 inches of new snow at the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

As snow began to pile up throughout the day on Sunday , area schools started announcing closures for Monday. By late Sunday all of the public schools in the San Luis Valley had declared a snow day for Monday. Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College also called off classes on Monday, and some businesses and governmental agencies were closed…

However, skies are expected to be overcast all week, and the chance of precipitation will increase from 10-20 percent midweek to 30 percent by Thursday night. Friday and Saturday will bring about 30 percent chance of precipitation , according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will also remain colder this week, with high temperatures in the mid 30’s . The Valley will not likely surpass 40 degrees again until Saturday.

The San Luis Valley and surrounding mountains were under a hazardous weather watch through most of Monday, and avalanche warnings are in effect in the mountains and backcountry at least through noon today, Feb. 24. The

Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a warning for the Sangre de Cristo,

Southern San Juan and Northern San Juan Mountains through midday Tuesday , due to the significant amounts of new snow and winds creating dangerous conditions in the backcountry of Colorado’s southern mountains. Wolf Creek Pass was closed on the west side for avalanche control for a time on Monday but had reopened by midday. Avalanche control was planned on Monarch Monday night.

All mountain and high Valley areas will have hazardous travel conditions because of the icy and snowpacked roads, and motorists are urged to use caution.

“Drivers are cautioned to drive slow and be patient,” City of Alamosa officials urged.

“Our crews are set to do their jobs,” Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said. “We are asking for the same level of preparedness from drivers. We cannot stress enough the need for folks to know the conditions, prepare their vehicles with good snow tires and topped up fluids, and drive for the conditions.”

He added, “Travelers should check http://www.cotrip. org before heading out.”

Colorado State Patrol was busy responding to accidents throughout the recent snowstorm but accident statistics were not available by press time Monday. Most involved vehicles sliding off the road. CSP urged motorists to take it slow and stay off the slick roads unless absolutely necessary.

On the bright side, in addition to more powder at the ski area and a snow day for school children, this weekend’s snowstorm brought a boost to the area’s lagging snowpack. By Monday the snowpack had risen to 67 percent of normal basin wide, which still offers plenty of room for improvement.

Some areas of the San Luis Valley were showing more positive numbers. For example, Cochetopa Pass was at 134 percent of normal snowpack and Medano Pass at 100 percent, which bodes well for streams at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve this summer.

From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

The blue light, announcing 6 or more inches of snow, lit up on top of Tenderfoot Mountain Monday night following a weekend storm that dropped 17 inches of new snow at Monarch Mountain and 5-8 inches around Salida.

The fluffy, dry snow resulted in 0.55 inch of precipitation in Salida.

Monarch now has a mid-mountain base of 70 inches, and the new powder bumped the resort’s numbers for Monday.

“We definitely had higher numbers today,” Jessie Smith, marketing coordinator said. “School having a snow day helped as well.”

Salida schools canceled classes for a rare snow day.

“I’ve been here for 5 years, and it’s the first one I know about,” said Salida School District Superintendant Darryl Webb.

“I talked to school board member Kyle Earhart, who has been around for 9 years, and this is the first one he remembers as well.”

Webb said the school district doesn’t have a hard and fast rule for deciding when to call a snow day for the schools.

“We contact the county first,” Webb said, “and Evalyn Parks (district transportation director) and I will drive the roads early, to see what they are like, before making a decision.”

Webb said in the case of this snow day, they decided the night before after hearing the forecast for snow to continue falling through noon.

Webb said the district has extra days built into its calendar for just such days, so the students won’t have to make up any days at the end of the year.

“Unless we get a lot more snow,” he said.

The National Weather Service has forecast a hazardous weather outlook through the coming weekend for south central and southeast Colorado.

A new weather system will begin Wednesday evening and last through the weekend, bringing a chance of snow Wednesday through Friday and significantly colder temperatures Thursday and Friday.

The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the presses

Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch
Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

SEMINAR ON AG FUTURE 2/25, 6-9PM
The final session of our 2015 Water Course, which is focused on the future of irrigated agriculture, will take place at CMU and will be live-streamed on the internet from 6-9pm. For full details, click here.

More education coverage here.