Supreme Court rules against TRWD

by carla noah stutsman
Tarrant Regional Water District is undoubtedly disappointed by a U. S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday, June 13 that essentially prevents the district from purchasing 150 billion gallons of Oklahoma water.
But TRWD board member Jack R. Stevens remains optimistic that, in the end, “it’s all going to work out.”
The whole thing started about eight years ago, Stevens said, when TRWD approached Oklahoma to try to buy less than six percent of the water that’s leaving our neighboring state to the north, Stevens said.
“They refused, even though they realize they don’t have the money to build the infrastructure they need to use the water they have,” Stevens explained. “Even after the Supreme Court ruling, we can still get the water – but it will cost a lot more because of the salinity of the water in the Red River. We had hoped to capture the water before it reaches the Red River to defray the cost.”
At the heart of the suit, which was filed some six years ago and has been ruled on and appealed twice, is the 1980 Red River Compact, which gives an “equitable apportionment of water” from the Red River and its tributaries to the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
However, the RR Compact does not address accessibility of the water, Stevens said.
“The only way we can get to our 25 percent of the water we’re entitled to is from small tributaries from the Red River that extend into Texas – and we can only get about 17 percent of the water that way,” he continued. “And then, it’s salty.”
In the meanwhile, Stevens said TRWD will continue what it’s been doing all along: looking for ways to provide water in the portions of the DFW area it serves.
In addition to the occasional rain dance, Stevens quipped, some new and innovative projects are already underway, designed to help ensure the availability of water in North Central Texas for the next 40-50 years.
One project is nearing completion at Richland Chambers Reservoir and will soon expand to Cedar Creek Lake in which water from the Trinity River is or will be put through a series of wetlands to filter it.
“When these projects are both complete, water from those wetlands will supply as much water to Fort Worth area as the West Fork of the Trinity River does now,” Stevens said.
A partnership between TRWD and the City of Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) is also addressing the demand for additional water supplies for the area. Called the Integrated Pipeline Project, it will eventually bring water from Lake Palestine in east Texas right up to the Rolling Hills subdivision in South Fort Worth, Stevens said. A branch of the pipeline will also supply water to the city of Dallas.
“The Integrated Pipeline will bring water, but it also adds redundant pipeline for the Richland Chambers and Cedar Creek pipeline in the event of any type of failure,” Stevens said. “At its largest point, the Integrated Pipeline is projected to be 108 inches in diameter, compared to 92 inches for the Richland Chambers-Cedar Creek pipeline.”
Preliminary work has begun in some places, but TRWD and DWU are still acquiring property and right-of-way for the project, which is in its very early stages.
Stevens said the entire Integrated Pipeline project is estimated to cost $2.3 billion.
TRWD general manager Jim Oliver. in a prepared statement, said: “Obviously, we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. Securing additional water resources is essential to North Texas’ continued growth and prosperity and will remain one of our top priorities. The population in our service area is expected to double over the next fifty years so we will act quickly to develop new sources.
“The decision does not address the problem of Oklahoma’s lack of water infrastructure, and we believe solutions that benefit both Texas and Oklahoma still exist. We will continue to explore and advance those opportunities.”
Stevens, meanwhile, is persistently optimistic about the situation, and about Oklahoma and Oklahomans.
“It’s all going to work out,” he said Monday. “Texas sends Oklahoma a lot of great football talent, and I think we’ll end up helping Oklahoma with its infrastructure and they’ll help us with water.
“We’re neighbors.”