A 60-day stay granted in the federal water rights lawsuit filed by two Oklahoma Indian tribes is expected to be extended, the state attorney general's office reported.
The stay was granted March 27, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. The initial stay is set to end in late May.
The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a lawsuit in federal court in August, essentially laying claim to the water rights in much of southeastern Oklahoma. The state filed a suit of its own, in state court, before a federal judge took the unusual step of moving the case to federal court.
The 60-day stay was granted roughly two weeks later.
Patrick Wyrick, one of the attorneys heading up the negotiations for the attorney general's office, said the state is working to extend the stay issued by a federal judge.
Stephen Greetham, chief general counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, said he couldn't comment about whether the stay would be extended, but said the tribes remain committed to the ongoing negotiations.
“We want to see this mediation process work,” he said. “We want to see it take root. We want to see it succeed.”
Since the stay was granted, little news about progress has been made public.
In the meantime, the tribe has added an experienced, Washington, D.C.-based attorney to its team of lawyers.
Douglas Endreson was granted permission to argue before the federal judge presiding over the case at the end of April, records show.
Endreson's profile on his law firm's website says he has extensive experience in tribal issues, including gaming, hunting and fishing rights, tribal taxation and water rights.
A task force, which includes the top officials of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, was formed earlier in the month to facilitate negotiations between the two sides.
The 19-member group was formed by mediator Francis E. McGovern, who also worked in the same capacity following the BP oil spill in 2010.
Finding a solution to Oklahoma's current water dispute is the sole function of the group and McGovern will give regular reports on the group's progress to the presiding judge.