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North Texas Still Pursuing Oklahoma Water

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – North Texas water providers aren't giving up their effort to import water from Oklahoma. A court ruling last week dismissed legal claims filed by the Tarrant Regional Water District, but KERA's Shelley Kofler says the water district will opt to appeal that decision when it meets today.

The Tarrant Regional Water District claims its right to acquire water from southeastern Oklahoma is guaranteed by the Red River compact. The compact is an agreement signed by Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana to share water from the Red River basin.

But the Oklahoma legislature passed a law giving its in-state water needs priority. Tarrant's lawsuit claimed the state legislation is unconstitutional. Charlie Price with the Oklahoma Attorney General's office says his state is standing firm.

Price: We have been to federal court on that issue. Twice now the federal court has ruled in the state's favor. We stand ready to defend our statute at the next level.

The Tarrant Regional Water District says there's a lot at stake.

Even with conservation and the reuse of water North Texas's needs are expected to more than double within the next 50 years. The potential supply of Oklahoma water is greater than the supply that would be created by building the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in East Texas, and Tarrant's Wayne Owen says importing Oklahoma water would be cheaper than piping in water from distant reservoirs.

Owen: The Oklahoma option is so very attractive from an environmental and economic standpoint and it makes so much sense. I think the big concern is Texas with 24 million citizens right now and Oklahoma with a far less population is intimidated to a certain extent by their large neighbor to the South.

Other big North Texas water providers have joined the legal fight for Oklahoma water. the City of Dallas; the North Texas Municipal Water District and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District are parties to the lawsuit.

Tarrant has signed a contract to buy the water through the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma which holds water rights.

The Tarrant district's Owen says he hopes all parties can reach an out-of-court agreement. If they can't they'll meet in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in about six months.

Email Shelley Kofler