Water referee says Nebraska owes Kansas $10,000 -- not $9 million

LINCOLN, Neb. | An arbitrator says Nebraska should only have to pay Kansas $10,000 for overusing Republican River water in 2005 and 2006.

Kansas had originally sought about $72 million. In recent months, it lowered the figure to $9 million after the arbitrator said the state could only seek damages for what it suffered, not payment for what Nebraska gained. In his final report released late Tuesday night, arbitrator Karl Dreher also said Nebraska should not have shut down wells providing water to about half the irrigated acres in Nebraska’s portion of the Republican River basin, as requested by Kansas.

But he did recommend irrigation be reduced in the basin.

The arbitrator’s recommendations are not legally binding, so the dispute may land in court.