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Wilbarger Co. Officials Ask State Representatives to Reconsider Water-Related Bills

The passage of two proposed state water bills backed by Texoma representatives may be in question after some county officials raised concerns about losing authority over local water.  Elected officials in Wilbarger County have asked the  sponsors to put the brakes on the bills.

With water a more valuable commodity in some Texas counties than oil now, Vernon Mayor Jeff Bearden and Wilbarger County Judge Greg Tyra have asked District 30 Senator Craig Estes and District 69 Representative James Frank to reconsider bills they've introduced in the current legislative session.

"The bills change the fundamental nature of the red river authority and allow them lawfully, for the first time, to purchase, acquire, and develop ground water in addition to the historic mission of managing surface water," Bearden says.

"We rely on the aquifer to supply underground water, and this bill gave a state agency authorization to come in and take the groundwater," Tyra says.

Cities, businesses,  hospitals, and farmers in Wilbarger County all depend on water from the Seymour Aquifer.

Bearden and Tyra say they simply want to slow down the legislative process and actively work with the lawmakers so everyone can understand the possible effects which might include water being sold to other areas.

"I don't know that they understood at the time that there would be opposition, but they have been gracious enough to slow the process down," Tyra says.

"We're at a position where we all just might want to all take a deep breath, back up, and take a look at is this the best way to solve some of our regional water problems," Bearden.

County officials are now researching potential underground water sources, including a rumored underground river and how to get that water up, so they will have more water sources for the future.

We did talk to an Estes staff member today who told us they can hopefully continue working on compromise language on the bill.

Representative James Frank says he working with Representative Drew Springer to come up with a bill that would address the concerns while still providing a way to get water to rural residents in the 43 counties in Red River Water Authority.
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