FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association today filed an amicus curiae brief with the Texas Supreme Court in the case of Pape Partners v. DRR Family Properties. The brief, available here, asks that the state’s highest court consider the matter and reverse a previous decision by Texas’ 10th Court of Appeals in Waco.
The heart of the case is who has jurisdiction to decide disputes over ownership of water rights, the court system or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In 2020, the Court of Appeals ruled that TCEQ has exclusive jurisdiction to decide questions over ownership of water rights, and disputes must go through the agency’s administrative process. This ruling, however, has been widely criticized for reversing longstanding precedent on how water rights are considered, interpreted and protected.
Along with numerous other concerns, water rights advocates are united in their belief that TCEQ does not have the jurisdiction suggested by the appeals court. TCEQ agrees, stating in their own legal brief, “the Commission’s authority does not extend to adjudicating private disputes simply because they involve water rights.”
Cattle producers are on the front lines of the battle to maintain water ownership rights.
“Access to water is an essential part of raising cattle, both to sustain the livestock themselves and the pastures they graze upon, making water ownership one of our most important property rights,” said Arthur Uhl, first vice president of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “Texas cattle producers need clarity and consistency when disputes arise, which is something only the court system can offer.
“Texas has a long history of protecting private ownership of surface and groundwater. The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association will continue to fight in the legislature and in the courts to ensure Texans never lose this precious right and resource.”