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

Fallin said: "Until we get a report back on the plan that is being developed, I think it would be very premature, and frankly, not responsible to begin any discussion about what we do in the future without seeing what the plan is first."

Also factoring into future water plans are two tribes, the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, who recently have said they want in on future water discussions.

Askins said elected officials need to educate themselves on tribal water rights and involve the tribes in discussions.

Fallin said: "In implementing the plan, I think the legislators and the governor and certainly all parties interested in water and the future of Oklahoma need to have an open line of communication."

Sardis Lake decision

The Choctaws and Chickasaws have taken issue with how Gov. Brad Henry, current legislative leaders and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board handled a recent deal giving Oklahoma City access to much of the water in southeast Oklahoma's Sardis Lake. The tribes said they were left out of discussions despite having rights to the water.

Askins also took issue with the Sardis Lake deal.

"I'm disappointed that the Water Resources Board felt like they had to make a decision before the water study is completed and before a plan is in place," she said.

The board approved the deal with Oklahoma City in June in part because of a deadline on a payment the state owed the federal government for building the lake. Oklahoma City paid the state's $27 million debt on the lake as part of the deal for its water. The Choctaw Nation had also offered to pay the debt.

Fallin wouldn't say whether she thinks the Sardis deal is a good one.

"I'm just going to focus on what we can do moving forward. That's something that's already transpired," she said. "I know the Legislature and the governor have had to make some tough decisions and work through a lot of different issues, and that's the past and I'm looking forward to working in the future."

"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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