Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Choctaws, Chickasaws File Lawsuit over Sardis Lake Purchase in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Choctaws, Chickasaws File Lawsuit over Sardis Lake Purchase in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

One year and two months after the city of Oklahoma City paid more than $27 million for the water storage rights of the Sardis Lake Reservoir, attorneys for the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the city from obtaining a water permit to use the lake.

The 36-page lawsuit, filed Thursday in Western District Federal Court in Oklahoma City, named Gov. Mary Fallin, the board of directors of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong, the city of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust as defendants.

In the lawsuit, both tribes sought a permanent injunction preventing the OWRB and Strong from issuing a water use permit to the OCWUT for the Sardis reservoir.

"Plaintiff nations seek to have the court declare as a matter of federal law that unless and until a comprehensive adjudication of water rights is lawfully initiated ... any action by the defendants ... on the water trust's water-use permit application ... or other action that purports to authorize the withdrawal and export of water resources from any point within the treaty territory ... is pre- empted by and violates the plaintiff nations' federally protected water rights, their right to control water resources in the treaty territory and their federally protected immunity from the application of state law and state jurisdiction," court filings said.

The lawsuit caught state officials, including the OWRB board, off guard

"Wow, that surprises me," OWRB board member Richard Sevenoaks said. "Once you go into litigation it sort of shuts down negotiations and that's what I thought we were doing."

And though Sevenoaks wouldn't speak more about the lawsuit, he said the state's comprehensive water plan called for Fallin to designate an official negotiator with tribal leaders.

"That's one of the components of the comprehensive water plan," Sevenoaks said. …

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