The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has ruled in favor of Oklahoma in two lawsuits filed against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and its board members. The lawsuits, Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) v. Herrmann et al. and City of Hugo v. Nichols et al., were filed in an attempt to transfer water from Southeastern Oklahoma for use by North Texas communities. Both lawsuits sought to invalidate certain Oklahoma statutes governing water. In 2009, and again in 2010, Oklahoma had won favorable decisions at the District Court level. Hugo and TRWD appealed the lower court decisions, and Wednesday's ruling (Sept 8, 2011) was in response to those appeals.
"This decision has, in so many ways, been the culmination of a ten-year battle to protect the waters of Oklahoma," said Charlette Hearne, president of Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy (ORWP). "We at ORWP are so grateful to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for this decision, and to our Oklahoma legislators for retaining the excellent counsel of Charles DuMars. By the grace of God, we have been given a chance to continue being good stewards of such a precious resource."
"The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion is an extensive analysis of the issues raised by Tarrant County, Texas, to which the State of Oklahoma successfully responded," said ORWP attorney Larry Derryberry. "The opinion addresses several very basic and important issues relating to Oklahoma law and Oklahoma water. It allows Oklahoma to feel more secure about the long standing attempts of Tarrant County to take Oklahoma water. As it relates to the issues before the court, this decision is a big victory for the people of Oklahoma."
"But it is a bittersweet victory because our waters have yet to receive proper study in our state water plan," Hearne said. "How can we protect our waters without proper, scientific studies that consider all uses of water in Oklahoma? ORWP is calling for the non-consumptive uses of water to be further studied. Specifically, we think the state water plan must address water needs in all basins used for tourism, recreation, fish and wildlife, and economic development. These studies must be thoroughly vetted and scientifically sound. "
ORWP is a grassroots citizens’ organization created to protect Oklahoma's water resources, economy, environment and way of life. The group currently has more than 9,000 members. For more information on ORWP go to www.orwp.net .