The state and two Indian tribes have tried mediation, with little apparent success, as a way to resolve a federal lawsuit over the rights to water in southeastern Oklahoma. Might a task force loaded with heavy hitters be able to do the trick?
We're going to find out. The 19-person group was convened last week by the court-appointed mediator, Francis E. McGovern, who knows his way around difficult cases — he was a key player in mediation efforts following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.
The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes filed suit against the state last year, seeking to block a plan to move water from Sardis Lake to Oklahoma City. In claiming ownership to the water in a 22-county area in southeastern Oklahoma, the tribes cite treaties signed with the federal government that date to the 1830s.
Water lawsuits are complicated, often emotional affairs, and this one is no different. The two sides have at times exchanged pointed comments in defending their positions. Nerves are frayed, although both parties have consistently said they would prefer not to litigate.