Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar announced that the states of Kansas and Colorado have agreed to try to resolve the remaining issues in their longstanding dispute over the waters of the Arkansas River through mediation. The two states have been unable to agree on how much water Colorado must deliver to Kansas.
"It is in the best interests of both our states to work through a mediator to resolve the remaining issues, rather than continue with several more years of costly litigation," Attorney General Stovall said. "The major issue of liability has already been resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court and we have hopes that through a mediator we can reach an agreement on final damage amounts and future compliance."
"It would be beneficial to Colorado farmers, and those in Kansas as well, for the two states to try to work together now, so that we can know for certain how much water each state will have available to it, rather than waiting for the Court to make that determination after many more hearings and another trip to the Supreme Court," Attorney General Salazar said. "We hope that with the objectivity of a third party negotiator we can come to an agreement that will benefit the citizens of both states."
The states have selected former Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek to be the mediator. Mazurek, who served eight years as Attorney General, is currently a partner in the law firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole and Dietrich in Helena, MT. Mazurek was involved in a number of water issues as Attorney General and is highly regarded by colleagues who served with him.
Attorneys General Stovall and Salazar filed a motion in the United States Supreme Court seeking an order from Special Master Arthur Littleworth to defer setting the final trial segment until next year to allow time for settlement negotiations.
An aerial tour of the Arkansas River Basin (Pueblo, CO to Garden City, KS) was held Sept. 29, with the mediator and some members of the negotiating teams from each state in attendance.
The Colorado negotiating team was led by Attorney General Salazar, and also will include Chief Counsel to the Governor Britt Weygandt, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources Greg Walcher and State Engineer Hal Simpson.
The Kansas negotiating team was led by Attorney General Stovall and will include David Pope, Chief Engineer of the Kansas Division of Water Resources and John Draper, Special Assistant Attorney General for Kansas.
The lawsuit, Kansas v. Colorado, was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985. Kansas sued Colorado for interfering with Kansas' rights under the Arkansas River Compact. The Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Colorado had violated the compact by taking more water than what it was entitled to and owed Kansas damages for those violations. In June 2001, the Court ruled that a state can receive monetary damages, including prejudgment interest, from another state in an original action before the Supreme Court, but did not specify a certain amount.