Deer Creek Water Corporation, et al. v. City of Oklahoma City, et al., No. 21-6155 (10th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Deer Creek Water Corporation filed suit against Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (together, the City) seeking a declaratory judgment that the City could not provide water service to a proposed development on land owned by Thomas and Gina Boling (together, the developers), who later intervened in the action. In support, Deer Creek invoked 7 U.S.C. § 1926(b), a statute that generally prohibited municipalities from encroaching on areas served by federally indebted rural water associations, so long as the rural water association made water service available to the area. The district court granted the developers’ motion for summary judgment after concluding that Deer Creek had not made such service available, and Deer Creek appealed. Although the Tenth Circuit rejected Deer Creek’s arguments related to subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court agreed that the district court erred in finding it dispositive that Deer Creek’s terms of service required the developers to construct the improvements necessary to expand Deer Creek’s existing infrastructure to serve the proposed development, reasoning that because Deer Creek itself would not be doing the construction, it had not made service available. The Court found nothing in the statute or in caselaw to support stripping a federally indebted rural water association of § 1926(b) protection solely because it placed a burden of property development on the landowner seeking to develop property. The district court therefore erred in placing determinative weight on Deer Creek’s requirement that the developers construct the needed improvements. The judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings on whether Deer Creek made service available.