NPR Story
11:22 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Lawmakers Question Governors' Deal to Let Texas Pump Water From Oklahoma

MapPic

programwitch / Flickr

When Gov. Mary Fallin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in January agreed a north Texas water district could take water out of the Red River using a pump station in Oklahoma, they avoided what could’ve been a long legal battle over the exact location of the state’s southern boundary.

And why not? Texas had been using the pump for years — with both sides assuming it was in the Lone Star State — until new maps showed the pump station was technically in Oklahoma.

Suddenly, the imaginary line separating the states wasn’t so clear.

But the agreement also left some western and southern Oklahoma lawmakers disappointed and confused. And on Tuesday, another added his voice to those saying Fallin’s office went rogue on this one, as The Journal Record‘s M. Scott Carter reports:


…state Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Elk City, questioned whether Fallin had the statutory or constitutional authority to make the deal.

“Since water is such an issue, I would have made that known to the Legislature,” Ivester said. “I know the cost of possibly moving those pumps could be prohibitive, but I think it should have been out there.”

Ivester also questioned the governor’s standing to make the deal.

“It looks like her office and maybe her general counsel just unilaterally decided (what she did),” he said. “But we have other legal minds, good legal minds, that would differ. I think that needed to be hashed out before the governor’s office just acted unilaterally.”

Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, told the paper the agreement does not conflict with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Texas does not have the right to pipe water from the Red River Basin in Oklahoma.

“At the argument (at the Supreme Court) the justices talked about these pumps,” Mullins said. “The justices said Texas already has the right to reach into Oklahoma to get water out of the Red River because the Red River belongs to Oklahoma. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether (Texas) could go into Oklahoma in water that was controlled solely by Oklahoma and take water before it went into the Red River.”

Still, Sen. Ivester and some fellow lawmakers in tourism-dependent or drought-stricken districts wish they would’ve been consulted. Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz tells the paper the administration is now contacting those concerned.

Copyright 2014 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/.