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Gov. Rick Perry Misses Legislative Deadline In Oklahoma-Texas Border Dispute

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Paul L. McCord, Jr.
Flickr Creative Commons

Exactly where the border between Oklahoma and Texas lies along the Red River has never been completely clear, especially where Lake Texoma covers the original river shore.

The dispute over water and the whereabouts of the border predates statehood, and has led to Supreme Court cases — most recently, the court sided against a north Texas water district that wanted to use water from Oklahoma’s Red River tributaries.

Once the fight nearly became literal when, in 1931, Texas barricaded a bridge across the river, causing Oklahoma Gov. “Alfalfa” Bill Murray to deploy the National Guard. The notorious governor even packed his antique revolver and visited the battle zone himself.

It looked like the issue had finally been settled in 2000, the last time the border was redrawn, but more than a decade later, errors have been found in the latest line.

And as The Texas Tribune‘s Jim Malewitz reports, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation creating a commission to address the issue, but is apparently in no hurry to find a fix:

In June, Perry signed legislation creating the Red River Boundary Commission, a five-member body meant to study and possibly redraw the border along Lake Texoma to fix a mapping error that helped form a sea of troubles for North Texas water managers. The law instructed the governor to make the appointments “as soon as practicable” after passage “but not later than December 1.” … But the clock ran out on Sunday, with no word about the appointments.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board spokesman Brian Vance told Malewitz neither the Oklahoma agency, nor Gov. Mary Fallin’s office have heard a word from Texas about this issue, though a Perry spokeswoman says the appointments are still going though the process, and an announcement would be made “at the appropriate time.”

The commission’s first meeting is set for the end of January.

The new Red River Boundary Commission is supposed to study the dispute’s latest episode, which involves a mollusk infestation. … the North Texas Municipal Water District discovered that [the 2000] boundary bisected its water pumping station in Lake Texoma, where officials discovered an infestation of havoc-wreaking zebra mussels, which have disrupted underwater food chains across the nation and clogged power and water plants. The mussel swarm left 28 percent of the district’s water supply untapped because federal law bars the cross-state transfer of zebra mussels and other “injurious species.”

The commission’s first report isn’t due until January 2015, with a final report scheduled to be released a few months later.


StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.  

Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state. He previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly arts and entertainment correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla. and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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