The U.S. Supreme Court action has reaffirmed the State of Oklahoma’s ability to defend its water resources from out-of-state influences.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the city of Hugo’s appeal of last September’s Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that denied the city’s attempt to sell 200,000 acre-feet of southeast Oklahoma water (65 billion gallons) to the City of Irving, Texas. In its original ruling, the federal Court of Appeals cited Hugo’s lack of standing to file a lawsuit against its parent state. The lawsuit—City of Hugo v. Nichols et al.—was filed against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in 2008 in an attempt to secure water from southern Oklahoma for use by Irving, a large North Texas municipality.
“This important decision by the highest court in the land demonstrates the continued dedication and resourcefulness of Oklahoma’s team of water management and legal officials as we work diligently to fend off repeated attempts to undermine our ability to manage use of water within the state for the good of all Oklahomans,” says J.D. Strong, Executive Director of the OWRB.
Water in Oklahoma is protected from interstate transfer and sale through legislative and interstate compact restrictions and requirements. The State Legislature must also approve such transactions.
A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed the Grand River Dam Authority’s ownership claims to the waters of the Grand River and brought to a close a legal battle that began in 2007.
On January 24, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a dispute challenging GRDA’s rights to sell water from Fort Gibson Lake, located on the Grand River. By doing so, it ended the legal challenges first brought by four water districts and two private companies in 2007.
The Plaintiffs, which pull their water supplies from that lake, claimed the United States government, which owns and operates the Fort Gibson Dam, had jurisdiction over waters in the lake, and not GRDA.
However the Court of Civil Appeals in Oklahoma ruled that GRDA — which was created by the state in 1935 and given jurisdiction over the Grand River — was the proper owner of the waters. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to reverse the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals and the Plaintiff’s thereafter petitioned the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.
The United States Supreme Court’s decision to not take up the dispute reaffirms that the case was properly decided in state courts, said GRDA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Easley.
“We’re very pleased with the ruling,” said Easley. “Not only is it good news GRDA and it rate-payers across Oklahoma, but it reaffirms state ownership of state waters.”
Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is funded by the revenues from the sale of electricity and water. GRDA built and operates the Pensacola Dam (Grand Lake), Robert S. Kerr Dam (Lake Hudson) and the Salina Pumped Storage Project (Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson) on the Grand River. These facilities, along with the GRDA Coal-Fired Complex and the Red Bud Gas Plant combine for a total generation capability of 1,480 megawatts. GRDA transmits and delivers this wholesale electricity across Oklahoma municipal, electric cooperative and industrial customers.