Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chickasaw Nation Governor: Water Conflict Brewing in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chickasaw Nation Governor: Water Conflict Brewing in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

State leaders should move quickly to recognize the loud cry calling for acknowledgement of legitimate tribal concerns in developing a statewide water plan, the governor of the Chickasaw Nation said Tuesday.

Speaking at a forum on tribal water rights at the Governor's Water Conference in Norman, Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby said conflicts over water rights between tribal nations and the state were escalating.

"Our conflicts continue to intensify," Anoatubby said. "And from where I sit the most obvious example of that is Sardis Lake."

The contract that gave Oklahoma City water storage rights to the lake, he said, was negotiated without regard for tribal proposals.

Earlier this year, state Treasurer Scott Meacham and Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch cut a deal that allowed the city of Oklahoma City to purchase water storage rights to the Sardis Lake Reservoir in Clayton for about $27 million - the same amount the state owed the Army Corps of Engineers for construction of the lake.

That deal is currently being reviewed by the federal government.

"For months and months, the Chickasaw and the Choctaw nations have worked together respectfully," Anoatubby said. "But we remain firmly opposed to the agreement that was reached."

Federal and state leaders, he said, have a fundamental obligation to resolve the issues.

"I'm not standing here to thump on the podium, or wring my hands, or to be negative," the Chickasaw governor said. "And we have a lot of important issues, and we know we have differences, but at the end of the day we're neighbors and at the end of the day, we're all Oklahomans."

Echoing Anoatubby, attorney Stephen Greetham said tribal, federal and state leaders need to talk and work out a method for resolving future water rights disputes.

"We have to sit down and figure out what the facts are on the ground or else we're unprepared for the facts and challenges we face," Greetham said. "The longer we put them off, there is the greater opportunity for conflict."

Greetham said the issues surrounding state and tribal water conflicts "turn on property interest, sovereignty and procedural methods. …

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