Sometimes judges give hints in rulings about where they would like to see cases heading.
In his ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton dismissed a substantial part of a lawsuit filed by the Tarrant Regional Water District, which intended to send Oklahoma water to Texas.
The favorable Oklahoma ruling cancels a federal court trial scheduled for next month in Oklahoma City over the conflict. The water district has until Dec. 18 to modify its complaint.
The Texas water district claimed an Oklahoma water law was unconstitutional. It filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to gain access to water in Oklahoma.
Heaton said the Red River Compact, of which Oklahoma and Texas are members, allows Oklahoma to control compact waters within its borders.
North Texas officials say they want to pay Oklahoma for the water – perhaps tens of millions of dollars a year. The water district has submitted applications with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for 460,000 acre-feet a year, or about 411 million gallons a day. Officials say they would take water from southern Oklahoma that isn’t used by Oklahomans and instead flows out of the state. They want water from an area a couple miles north of the Red River because the water gets salty once it gets in the river.
While Attorney General Drew Edmondson declared victory in the matter, Heaton seemed to be encouraging the state of Oklahoma to consider the offer from its southern neighbor.
“There is nothing in this order which precludes Oklahoma – if the facts on the ground are roughly as plaintiff has alleged – from negotiating, as a good neighbor, some arrangement to use more effectively the water allocated to it under the Red River Compact,” Heaton wrote. “The alleged facts suggest Oklahoma has ample room to maneuver in that regard, without harming either its long-term or short-term interests.”
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau