Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes urge OK Water Board to reject Sardis Lake deal
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Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
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Durant, OK 74701
DURANT, Okla. (June 10, 2010) - The Choctaw Nation has urged the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to reject a proposal to transfer Sardis Lake water holding rights to Oklahoma City and offered to pay the $5.2 million debt the State of Oklahoma owes the federal government by July 1.
The tribe, along with the Chickasaw Nation, made the offer in order to buy time for all involved to resolve the dispute over potential use of the lake’s water.
On Monday, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust unanimously voted to sign a contract with the state to buy the water storage rights.
“Using the debt owed by the state to the federal government as an excuse to make a deal that ignores the two tribes’ historic water rights and the environmental and economic interests of all of Southeastern Oklahoma just doesn’t make sense,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle of the Choctaw Nation.
The State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust have been talking about the trust buying the water storage rights, but on May 20 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the reservoir and dam, warned the governor, legislative leaders and state water officials that the Corps has not been asked for approval of any transfer of storage rights. The Corps said any such approval would be necessary by both the federal government and a U.S. District Court judge who ordered the state to repay the debt.
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is taking up the issue at a special meeting called for Friday.
The tribes have offered to pay the immediate debt so that a long-range solution can be reached after comprehensive water and environmental studies have been completed, evaluated by experts and reviewed by the public.
“It is wholly premature for the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust and the state to be engaged in these kinds of negotiations when no one has all the necessary information to make the right long-term decisions,” Chief Pyle said. “Further, it is essential before any decisions are made that the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, which have historical rights to the water, and representatives of the Southeastern Oklahoma community are a part of any such discussions relating to the future of Sardis Lake.”
The tribal leaders call upon the Water Board and the state to delay any action regarding Sardis until all the studies have been completed and all those affected by any potential transfer of water from Sardis are a part of the decision-making process.