10th Circuit water-case ruling a victory for Oklahoma, says Fallin
September 7th, 2011
Wednesday’s ruling from the 10 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirming dismissal of two lawsuits aimed at authorizing sales of southeastern Oklahoma water to Texas is a “victory for the state of Oklahoma,” Gov. Mary Fallin said.
“Our state, and myself as governor, will continue to vigorously defend the water to which we are entitled, as a state, whether it is under a compact that’s been approved by our state or by law itself,” the governor said.
Dismissed were a lawsuit filed by the Tarrant Regional Water District in north Texas, and another legal action filed by the city of Hugo, which wanted to sell Oklahoma water to Irving, Texas. The three-judge appeals panel said the Red River Compact, to which Oklahoma and Texas subscribe along with Louisiana and Arkansas, protects Oklahoma water law from being challenged by interstate commerce claims. The appeals court ordered a lower federal court to dismiss the Hugo lawsuit due to lack of federal jurisdiction.
The Texas water district was seeking access to both surface and stream water.
Both lawsuits were filed against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
“Given a choice, I think it’s always better to be able to sit down and work these things out together versus going into long, drawn-out litigation,” said Fallin. “But this … ruling is certainly a great victory for our state in moving forward.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt also welcomed the 10th Circuit decision.
“The ruling underscores that the people of Oklahoma should not be mandated through litigation to shape water policy,” Pruitt said. “Water is an important resource that is vital to Oklahomans, and my office will continue to defend our state’s interests.”
Fallin also addressed the recent lawsuit brought by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations to preserve their water rights as the state considers developing a new 50-year plan for use of Oklahoma water.
“We’ll proceed legally through the course of action,” the governor said. “My hope is that we can all come together and work these things out, outside the courtroom. Lawsuits can take decades to resolve. They’re very expensive, not only to the state of Oklahoma, but to the taxpayers. But water rights, water issues, water use, is certainly a huge concern, not only to the tribes but to all of Oklahoma. I think it’s in the best interest of all of Oklahoma that we work together to find common ground and be able to find a way that we can meet everybody’s needs.”
NOTE: highlighted areas per Dianne Lampman)