Editorial: Settlement recognizes tribal role in water management

Sardis Lake in Oklahoma. Photo by Justin Ford

The Oklahoman newspaper praises the Water Unity Oklahoma agreement that recognizes the role of the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation in managing water in their treaty territory. The deal still requires Congressional approval:
On Thursday came the announcement of a resolution, one that will allow Oklahoma City access to Sardis water while addressing the tribes' concerns about proper stewardship of this vital natural resource in southeastern and south-central Oklahoma.

Under the agreement, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board will retain its primary permitting authority, but the Chickasaws and Choctaws will have a voice as well. That was missing previously.

The agreement also provides a mechanism to allow the tribes and the state to receive and evaluate proposals for the sale of Oklahoma water. No one is in any hurry to do that, and indeed a legislative moratorium is in place banning any such sales, but this settlement keeps the door ajar in case opinions change someday.

The agreement will keep Sardis Lake at a level amenable to the tribes, addresses water flow in the Kiamichi River, and includes strong conservation measures in the region. It does not include payments to the tribe for use of the water. “This has to do with water management,” Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby said.

Read More:
Editorial: Mutual respect evident in Oklahoma water rights agreement (The Oklahoman 8/13)

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