Choctaws, Chickasaws file water lawsuit against state

By: Kristen Shanahan Email
By: Kristen Shanahan Email

ARDMORE,OK -- The lawsuit is looking to put a stop to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board from selling water storage rights to Sardis Lake to the Oklahoma City Water Utility Trust. Those involved say this is a longstanding issue concerning who owns the water rights that's now finally coming to the surface.

Chairman of the Board of Chickasaw Nation Industries Neal McCaleb says both the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have been trying to come to an agreement on the Sardis Lake water rights with the State of Oklahoma for about a decade now. McCaleb says the Indian Nations have rights to the water in Sardis Lake because it's part of their territory, land that was obtained by them through treaties back in the 1830s.

"Because the state will not recognize their sovereign interests in these water rights that's disrespectful. If you had a piece of ground and I claimed it that would be disrespectful of your surface rights,"McCaleb said.

Oklahoma State Senator Frank Simpson says while he understands and respects the tribes position there's another side to look at.

"The other side of the coin is when Oklahoma became a state then the sovereignty of the state superceded the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. That is where the big point of disagreement is centered around," Senator Simpson said.

McCaleb says the tribes want to achieve three things. For the state to recognize their sovereignty by letting them have a say. Secondly, for the state to determine if there is any extra water that the basin can spare for others, and also if there is an excess of water that can be transferred that it won't interfere with nature nor the wildlife, and that they'll be financially compensated.

Senator Simpson says though he thinks the end result will be settled federally in court he hopes for something different. That this lawsuit will bring both parties to the table to meet an agreement.

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