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June 14, 2013

Supreme Court sides with Okla. in water case

Ada —

Oklahoma has won its long-running fight with Texas over access to water in the Red River.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that Texas cannot take water out of Oklahoma without the state’s consent. The ruling upheld an earlier decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals which said Oklahoma could legally block out-of-state water sales.

Writing for the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the Red River Compact does not give Texas the right to cross the Oklahoma border in its search for water.

“Many compacts feature unambiguous language permitting signatory states to cross each other’s borders to fulfill obligations under the compacts, and many provide for the terms and mechanics of how such relationships will operate,” she wrote. “The absence of comparable provisions in the Red River Compact strongly suggests that cross-border rights were never intended to be part of the agreement.”

Oklahoma officials hailed the decision as a victory in their efforts to protect the state’s water.

“While the elegant defense of our position by Oklahoma’s legal team spawned considerable optimism, it’s a relief that the high court has reaffirmed our interpretation of long-settled agreements over the apportionment of out-of-state waters,” said J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. “After many years of legal maneuvering and saber-rattling, this should end, once and for all, Tarrant’s attempts to circumvent Oklahoma’s water management authority.”

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