Supreme Court rejects appeal in Oklahoma water rights case

OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected without comment the city of Hugo’s appeal to sue the state of Oklahoma for the right to sell water in southeastern Oklahoma to the city of Irving, Texas.

The high court’s ruling upholds a 2-1 ruling in September by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss Hugo’s lawsuit. The divided three-judge panel on the Circuit Court ordered that the lawsuit by the far southeastern Oklahoma city of just fewer than 5,400 be dismissed.

Hugo officials had sought legal authority to sell 200,000 acre-feet, or about 65 billion gallons, of water to Irving, located northwest of Dallas.

The lawsuit sought to overturn a law requiring legislative approval before the city is allowed to sell the water.

The Legislature first issued a moratorium in 2002 on the sale of Oklahoma water to out-of-state interests. In 2004, lawmakers extended the moratorium for five more years, before approving a measure in 2009 that says no out-of-state water permit can prevent Oklahoma from meeting its obligations under interstate compacts with other states.

It also requires the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to consider in-state water shortages or needs when considering applications for out-of-state water sales.

The majority opinion said neither Hugo nor Irving, which intervened in the case, had legal standing to file the lawsuit and that the lawsuit should be dismissed for lack of federal jurisdiction.

Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr. of Utah dissented with that opinion.

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