This week, a federal appeals court panel ruled that irrigators along Nebraska’s Niobrara River did not have their property rights violated when the state ordered them to shut off their pumps in 2007.
In an opinion, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom in favor of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Nebraska Public Power District.
The case began in 2007, when a drought prompted the department to issue water-use closure notices on behalf of the power district to hundreds of irrigators, just as the planting season was starting. The shutdown orders were soon lifted, but irrigators were warned that closure notices would be reissues when water levels were low.
The appeals panel agreed with Strom’s ruling that while irrigators have property rights related to water, those irrigators are subject to rights of senior users, such has the power district, and can be regulated by the state.
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