TX Attorney General to Render Opinion on Wilbarger Co. Groundwater Dispute

TX Attorney General to Render Opinion on Wilbarger Co. Groundwater Dispute

Difference of interpretation on Senate Bill 281 has Attorney General Greg Abbott preparing to render an opinion on the new state law.
Water has not just become a big issue recently in Texoma because of the drought it has been the center of debate and fights back to the 1800's when ranchers and farmers fought over it.

And now, a new law involving groundwater rights is starting a new water war in Wilbarger 

On September 1st, Senate Bill 281, which was sponsored by state Senator Craig Estes and Representative James Frank, took effect in Texas.

But that law is being interpreted differently by Wilbarger County officials and the Red River Water Authority and the Texas attorney general may have to step in to settle the argument.

The subject of groundwater in Wilbarger County is causing controversy.

A new state law allows the Red River Water Authority the right to purchase groundwater in Wilbarger County without approval of local officials.

But Wilbarger County leaders view that law differently.

"Our interpretation of the new law is that anything Red River has to do with groundwater in our county has to be approved by the commissioners court," says Wilbarger County Judge Greg Tyra.

So, 30th District Senator Craig Estes, who sponsored the bill, has asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to issue his opinion how the law should be interpreted.

The City of Vernon has a contract with Red River Authority to provide water to nearly 400 homes in Wilbarger County.

So officials there are also preparing briefs to send to the attorney general's office.

"We look forward to the opinion cause we certainly want to comply with the law and at the same time we've wanted to make sure that in our compliance with the law that we are trying to use the local water resources for local needs first cause that's our only source of water... in the aquafer," explains Vernon Mayor Jeff Bearden.

Senator Craig Estes was unable to comment about this issue so the director of his Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee did speak with us.

Renn Newey says the committee worked with Wilbarger County about their concerns for the law.

She they were under the impression Wilbarger officials suported the new language that would have county commissioners court approve the purchase but since there's a difference of interpretation of the law the attorney general is expected to make that decision by April 7th.
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