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Oklahoma elections: Water issues await next governor

The next governor will have to deal with major water issues. Impacting those issues are a North Texas water district wanting water from Oklahoma and state tribal nations holding rights to water here.
BY JOHN ESTUS Published: August 22, 2010

Oklahoma's next governor will carry the water, so to speak, on three water issues poised to affect Oklahoma and surrounding states for decades to come.

Those issues are implementing a statewide water use plan, whether to sell water to other states and who has the rights to the state's water.

The gubernatorial candidates, Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, agree the statewide water use plan will guide all things water in the next governor's administration.

That years-in-making study is to be delivered to the Legislature next year.

It details how the state should use its water in the future.

Asked what she expects from the study, Askins said: "We have to be able to look long-term. I really and truly do believe that as governor for four years that trying to work with the Legislature on whatever the long-term (water) plan is for the state of Oklahoma will be one of the major goals that we need to accomplish."

Fallin's take on the water use plan is similar.

"I think it's very important that we get that plan in hand and begin designing a long-term water policy plan for the state of Oklahoma that will guarantee every Oklahoman in every corner of the state that Oklahomans' water will be for Oklahomans, first and foremost."

Texans and tribes

Sure to be factors in future water discussions regardless of the findings of the study are a Texas water district and Oklahoma tribal nations.

A federal judge last month dismissed the Tarrant Regional Water District's lawsuit seeking access to Oklahoma water, but the North Texas district last week told the court it will appeal.

"While we prefer a conference room over a courtroom, we have no choice but to continue a vigorous pursuit of our case through the federal court system. We are committed to do so and believe we will prevail in the long run based on the soundness of our case," Jim Oliver, the district's general manager, said.

Askins and Fallin said they want to see the water use plan before deciding whether they support selling Oklahoma's water to another state.

"I will always believe that we first take care of the people of Oklahoma," Askins said. "We must make certain that our folks are assured that the water supply will be there as long as they need."

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"I will always believe that we first take care of the people of Oklahoma. We must make certain that our folks are assured that the water supply will be there as long as they need."
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins


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