Texas Must Keep Its Paws Off Oklahoma Water

     WASHINGTON (CN) – An agreement between four states that share the Red River does not entitle Texas to take Oklahoma water, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
     Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana all take water from the Red River under a 1955 congressional edict and the Red River Compact, ratified in 1980.
     As the population of Dallas-Fort Worth boomed in 2007, the Tarrant Regional Water District had its eye on the Red River’s three tributaries in Oklahoma to satisfy its need for more water.
     The district failed, however, to negotiate the purchase of water from Oklahoma and the Choctaw and Chicka­saw Nations, and then applied for a water resource permit from Oklahoma.
     Knowing that Oklahoma would likely deny its request because of state laws that effectively prevent out-of­-state applicants from taking or diverting water from within Oklahoma’s borders, the district sued nine officials with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Water Conservation Storage Commission.
     It said Oklahoma’s laws burden interstate commerce in violation of the dormant commerce clause, and that Red River Compact also pre-empts Oklahoma’s rules, triggering the supremacy clause.
     After Oklahoma lawmakers overhauled the water permit process in 2009, Tarrant tacked the new statutes to its complaint.
     That same year, a federal judge granted the Oklahoma defendants summary judgment in the lawsuit.
     The 10th Circuit affirmed in September 2011, and the Supreme Court took up the case this past January to consider “whether a provision of a congressionally approved multi-state compact that is designed to ensure an equal share of water among the contracting states preempts protectionist state laws that obstruct other states from accessing the water to which they are entitled by the compact.”
     It also affirmed Thursday.
     “Three things persuade us that cross-border rights were not granted by the Compact: the well-established principle that states do not easily cede their sovereign powers, including their control over waters within their own terri­tories; the fact that other interstate water compacts have treated cross-border rights explicitly; and the parties’ course of dealing,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the unanimous court.

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