Nebraska v. Wyoming

RESPONDENT:Wyoming et al.
LOCATION:City Council of Hialeah

DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)

CITATION: 507 US 584 (1993)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1993
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1993

Dennis C. Cook – for Wyoming
Gale Norton – for Colorado
Jeffrey P. Minear – for the United States
Richard A. Simms – for Nebraska

Facts of the case


Media for Nebraska v. Wyoming

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 13, 1993 in Nebraska v. Wyoming

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 20, 1993 in Nebraska v. Wyoming

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

The first of these is Nebraska versus Wyoming.

It is an original action concerning interstate water rights to the North Platte River.

That River rises is in Colorado and flaws northward through Wyoming and to Nebraska.

In 1945, this Court entered a decree establishing certain interstate priorities on the North Platte.

The Court equitably apportioned between Wyoming and Nebraska the waters in a 40-mile stretch known as the “pivotal reach”.

In 1986, Nebraska came back to this Court seeking enforcement of that 1945 decree and seeking injunctive relief.

We granted Nebraska the lead to file its petition.

Wyoming counterclaimed Colorado and the United States, United States which operates several reservoirs and canals on the river were made parties.

We referred the matter to a Special Master, Master Owen Olpin who was managed the litigations since 1987.

And before us now are the Special Master’s recommended dispositions of several summary judgment motions together with the exceptions filed to the Special Master’s report.

For reasons explained in an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we agree with the Special Master’s recommendations and we overrule the exceptions to those recommendations.

Summary judgment is granted to Nebraska and the United States on the question of the priority of the Inland Lakes in Nebraska.

We agree with the Master that a 1904 priority date was determined in the 1945 proceedings and that Wyoming’s post decree acquiescence in administration of the lakes precludes that from challenging that priority now.

Neither Wyoming nor Nebraska is entitled to summary judgment on the issues, concerning Wyoming’s construction of new storage and diversion facilities on two North Platte tributaries, Deer Creek and the Laramie River.

We agree with the Master that further proceedings are warranted.

Because the Court did not establish rights to the disputed tributary waters in 1945, however, we note that injunctive relief would constitute a modification of the decree.

To prevail therefore, Nebraska must make a showing that the new projects will cause Nebraska’s substantial injury.

Finally, we deny the parties request for several rulings with respect to the water rights of users below the Tri-State Dam in Nebraska.

Most of these issues are insufficiently developed to lend themselves to a summary judgment at this time.

We do, however, grant Nebraska partial summary judgment on its request for a determination that the 1945 decree does not impose absolute ceilings on the amount of water that canals in the pivotal reach may divert.

The Court is uninamous.