Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

State and Tribal Governments Need More Time To Talk Over Their Water Issues

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Vendome Well at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Okla.

The State of Oklahoma and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations have been negotiating for more than a year over who controls the water in southeast Oklahoma. The third stay in the case ended Tuesday with no agreement.

In a joint statement released Tuesday evening, the state and tribes asked for 90 more days to negotiate.

At issue is whether the state or tribal governments control water across 22 southeastern Oklahoma counties. The suit was first filed in 2011 after Oklahoma City attempted to purchase more water storage rights in Sardis Lake for future municipal use.

The Choctaw and Chickasaw nations base their claim on the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, but the state has been determining water rights since 1907.

Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle both say more time could lead to further progress.

“We agree that continuing efforts to resolve this matter through negotiation is the best course of action. We believe that further negotiations may lead to more progress toward an agreement that is fair and beneficial to everyone concerned,” Anoatubby and Pyle say in a joint release.

Something will be different this time around, however. Federal mediator Francis McGovern has been helping resolve the dispute since December 2011. But Tuesday’s statement says he’s no longer needed.

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