The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled this past week on two cases involving irrigators in the Republican River basin.
In the most publicized case, a group of irrigators in the Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District had filed suit against the State and the Department of Natural Resources claiming the DNR bypassed irrigation water away from them and diverted it for public use down the Republican River to satisfy Nebraska’s obligation to Kansas under the Republican River compact.
In it’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled with the District in dismissing the irrigator’s claims because the Compact is federal law and “supersedes the appropriators property interests and the DNR does not have a duty to regulate groundwater.”
The attorney representing those in the FCID, Dave Domina, called the decision “egregious” and that it tramples on more than a century of water rights.
In a quote to NTV News, Domina said, ” “Parents and grandparents who owned the land and are deceased are flipping over in the graves and maybe clawing to get out to protest this ruling. This ruling really guts water rights that people in the basin have held for stream water going back as 1895 when Nebraska first issued water rights.”
In a separate case, Medicine Creek LLC filed a request for variance from the Middle Republican NRD’s moratorium on new well drilling. MRNRD denied the variance but stated that Medicine Creek “may request a [sic] adjudicatory hearing to appeal this decision.” Medicine Creek did so, and a hearing officer presided over a hearing during which three individuals testified and numerous exhibits were received. Following the presentation of evidence, MRNRD’s Board of Directors(Board) voted to deny the variance. The district court found that, ” MRNRD’s decision “was not supported by the evidence, does not conform to the law and was therefore arbitrary.” The
court reversed the decision denying the variance and directed
MRNRD to grant the variance.
The court ruled, “Because the district court committed plain error by applying the wrong standard of review, we reverse, and remand for reconsideration under the proper standard.”