U.S. Water News Online
OKLAHOMA CITY — A loose coalition of southern Oklahoma organizations sought to bolster their case against the sale of state water to Texas interests.
The attorney general's office is appealing a federal judge's ruling that would allow a Texas group to proceed with its lawsuit against the state.
The Tarrant Regional Water District wants to obtain 150 billion gallons of water a year from Oklahoma streams.
Opponents say the district wants the water to further economic development in north Texas at the expense of Oklahoma towns and cities.
They expressed disappointment with the level of support they have gotten from state leaders, including the Legislature, the governor's office and the attorney general.
“We want to be the wet state that grows, not the dry one that blows away,” said Charlette Hearne of the Southern Oklahoma Water Association.
She urged lawmakers to enact legislation to ward off outside efforts to obtain state water and said Attorney General Drew Edmondson should retain experts in water law from the private sector to fight Texas interests.
“Now is not the time for the AG to fumble,” Hearne said.
Charlie Price, spokesman for Edmondson, said the attorney general's office is “vigorously defending the statute at every step and attorneys are doing all that can be done to prevail.”
The Legislature prohibited water sales out of state after learning that former Gov. Frank Keating's administration planned to sell water to Texas and split the profits with the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.
The Tarrant Regional Water District, based in Fort Worth, contends in its lawsuit that the ban on water sales violates federal interstate commerce laws.
Texas officials contend the water they want to purchase is “excess” that flows into the Red River and becomes too salty to be used for drinking without expensive treatment.
Rep. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, said officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth area need to do more to conserve water instead of trying to obtain water from Oklahoma.
Ellis said the Legislature should prohibit the sale of water outside the state without the approval of lawmakers and residents in local water basins.
He also said Congress should enact a law prohibiting one state from suing another for water “when they do not have a good conservation plan in place.”
The sale of any Oklahoma water to other states should be for human consumption only, Ellis said. He said if the state sells its water for industrial development in other states, Oklahoma would never grow itself.
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