Congressman Enters Red River Land Ownership Disputes


Growing disputes over the ownership of landing along the shifting Red River have prompted Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R) to introduce legislation to have a review of the 116-mile stretch of the river boundary between Oklahoma and Texas.

Action by the Bureau of Land Management to lay claim to tens of thousands of acres led to his filing of H.R. 428, a bill to survey the gradient boundary along the Red River in Oklahoma and Texas.

“It was defeated last year and I voted against it because it didn’t include Indian tribes,” explained Cole in an interview with OK Energy Today. Now the tribes are involved because they not only have mineral interests involved but land ownership.

Cole knows the importance of settling the disputes.

“In some cases families have thought they owned this land for generations,” he said. “But the river changes and in some cases, up to a mile or more.”

His bill was on a House agenda to be heard this week.

Last fall, a lawsuit was filed in Texas in a dispute with the BLM over who really owned land in Wilbarger and Clay Counties located near Wichita Falls. It took a judge to order a survey of the land. Under protection of sheriff’s deputies and federal agents, surveyors reviewed the land in question. Attorneys in the case pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has defined the ‘gradient boundary’ as the mid-point from the water’s edge during a normal flow and the south bank of the Red River.

In the case of the land-owner who sued the BLM, he stood to lose nearly two-thirds of the 352 acres he owned.

The lawsuit was prompted by the BLM’s announcement in 2014 that it had updated its Resource Management Plan which included how to manage federally owned land along the Red River.

Listen to Jerry Bohnen’s interview of Rep. Tom Cole.