Supreme Court rejects Texas effort to gain access to Oklahoma water

 Supreme Court rejects Texas effort to gain access to Oklahoma water by Michael Doyle, June 13, 2013, Sun Herald
Oklahoma beat Texas at the Supreme Court on Thursday in a cross-border contest over water for the Fort Worth area. In a unanimous decision, the court rejected efforts by the Tarrant Regional Water District to tap into a Red River tributary that flows through Oklahoma. Though Oklahoma and Texas are part of a hard-fought Red River Compact that divides up the region’s water, the court’s nine justices reasoned that the deal goes only so far. “Cross-border rights were never intended to be part of the states’ agreement,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court. “There is no indication that Tarrant or any other Texas agency, or the state of Texas itself, previously made any mention of cross-border rights within the compact.” The court’s 24-page decision, accompanied by two color maps, leaves the Tarrant Regional Water District unhappy and scrambling for aquatic alternatives. “Obviously, we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” Jim Oliver, the general manager of the water district, acknowledged in a statement. “The population in our service area is expected to double over the next 50 years, so we will act quickly to develop new sources.” … The Texas water district attacked Oklahoma’s position on two fronts, claiming that the Red River Compact overrides the state’s restrictive water laws and that Oklahoma’s laws violate the constitutional mandate that states not discriminate against one another. Both legal attacks failed. “Under the compact’s terms, water located within Oklahoma’s portion of (the river basin) remains under Oklahoma’s control,” Sotomayor wrote. “Accordingly, Tarrant’s theory that Oklahoma’s water statutes are pre-empted because they prevent Texas from exercising its rights under the compact must fail because the compact does not create any cross-border rights.” Sotomayor further reasoned that the so-called dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits states from erecting legal barriers against one another, doesn’t apply in the case. Because there’s no unallocated water in the region, she said, the Texas water district couldn’t show that it was discriminated against in its bid for unallocated water. [Emphasis added]

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