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Tarrant Water District Defends Lawsuit Costing More Than $6 Million

Shelley Kofler

The general manager for the Tarrant Regional Water District  is defending the multi-million dollar cost of its legal battle waged over Oklahoma water.

Jim Oliver says the district spent more than $6 million public dollars for the right to cross into Oklahoma to pump out water Tarrant thought it should have under a four-state state agreement called the Red River Compact.  The final tally for how much public money was spent on the lawsuit was not available. 

Last week the U.S.  Supreme Court said Tarrant didn’t have the right to go into Oklahoma to get the water, but Oliver says taking the legal gamble was worth it.

"If we had won it would have been worth billions (of dollars) in water," said Oliver. 

"I think it was  worth taking a shot," he added.

Oliver says the water district thought there was a good chance the Supreme Court would agree that while the compact didn't explicitly say Texas parties could extract their share of water outside their state that option was implied in the agreement. 

Oliver says that once the dust settles he hopes to talk to the State of Oklahoma and possibly the Indian tribes about buying water from their state for the growing needs of North Texas.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Water Resources  Board (OWRB) declined to talk about whether his state agency would be willing to reopen conversations about selling water to Texans.

"We are first and foremost concerned with water for Oklahomans," said the OWRB's Brian Vance.   "Everything else is secondary."


Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.