Appeal Denied in Water Rights Suit

Appeal to rehear water suit against Oklahoma denied

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Appeal to rehear water suit against Oklahoma denied.

    A federal appeals court on Friday denied a request by a North Texas water district to reconsider a lawsuit that seeks access to water flowing into the Red River from southeastern Oklahoma for use in the Fort Worth and Arlington areas.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-page order denying the Tarrant Regional Water District's petition for a rehearing.

    The appeals court had last month affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss the 2007 lawsuit, which alleged that Oklahoma statutes governing surface and stream water rights within its borders posed burdens to interstate commerce.

    The district had wanted to purchase about 150 billion gallons from Oklahoma tributaries of the Red River, which runs along the border between Oklahoma and Texas. Water district officials have said they are unable to draw water directly from the river because it is contaminated with chlorides from upstream salt deposits.

    The petition by the district, which serves 1.7 million in 11 rapidly growing counties in North Texas, warned that the region "will have insufficient water by 2030" unless the district obtains additional supplies.

    The district's Oklahoma City attorney referred calls for comment to the organization. A district spokesman didn't immediately return a call or an email seeking comment late Friday.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the state is pleased with the court's decision.

    "The ruling underscores that the people of Oklahoma should not be mandated through litigation to shape water policy," Pruitt said in a statement. "Water is an important resource that is vital to Oklahomans, and my office will continue to defend our state's interests."

    The lawsuit was filed after the Oklahoma Legislature approved a bill to extend a moratorium on out-of-state water sales in 2006.

    In affirming the lower court decision, the appeals court ruled the Red River Compact insulates Oklahoma water statutes from interstate commerce challenges involving water that is subject to the compact. The Red River Compact controls the use of water in the basin that includes Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

    District general manager Jim Oliver has said the court's interpretation of the Red River Compact negates the district's ability to secure a reliable future water supply and prevents the group from exercising its legal rights under the compact to access water allocated to Texas.

    Water district officials have said they want only 7 percent of southeastern Oklahoma water that is bound for the Red River and that no Oklahoma water reservoir would be affected. More than four times the amount of water used by the entire state flows unused into the Red River each year, district officials have argued.