By Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Chief Gregory E. Pyle
Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation
Editor: Chickasaws and Choctaws share many things with other Oklahomans, including the desire to pave the way for a better future for our children and grandchildren.
We, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, are currently working with, among others, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a regional water plan. Having a science-based plan is critical to sustainable management of water resources to support economic development, recreation, household use and to provide for the environmental health of our lakes, rivers and streams.
It is vital that state and tribal leaders work together to ensure a water future that will meet the needs of every Oklahoman in urban and rural areas while still preserving the natural beauty and environmental health of Oklahoma.
We cannot state strongly enough that the tribes have no interest in disrupting any individual’s current use of water that is made pursuant to a valid permit. The lawsuit filed against state officials and Oklahoma City was never intended to take action against individuals. We stand united with the farmers, ranchers, business owners and residents who depend upon our shared water resources.
Our goal is to have our voice — and our rights — respected and included in any decision on proposals to remove waters from our homelands. While we are confident we have strong legal claims, we want to make it clear that we have always preferred negotiation rather than litigation.
We intend nothing in our legal claim that would require the general stream adjudication proposed by the State of Oklahoma. This type of massive legal process places a serious burden on thousands of Oklahomans, who would have to bear the enormous expense of the state’s legal action, potentially lasting for decades, and it would not address or resolve the issues that demand our immediate attention.
State and tribal leaders are fully capable of resolving differences without undergoing the long and tedious process of general stream adjudication that has the potential to have such negative consequences for all the citizens of Oklahoma.
We propose, once again, that state and tribal leaders reach across the table, roll up our sleeves and work together to develop a plan for sustainable management of this most precious resource for the greater good of all Oklahomans.
Together, we can all work toward a sustainable water future for Oklahoma.