theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

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May 7, 2012

Tribes, Fallin agree on blue ribbon panel over water

Oklahoma City — A blue ribbon panel has been named — a veritable who’s who in Oklahoma energy, environmental, conservation and political diversity — to help reach a lasting agreement between the state of Oklahoma and two southeastern Oklahoma Native American tribes over water rights.

The “task force” had its first meeting Monday under the leadership of Francis McGovern, a Duke University law professor named in federal court to mediate on-going water disputes between the factions.

The powerfully important players in the case — Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby, Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin — said Monday in a joint statement “water rights and water security are linked to both economic and qualify of life issues. Our hope is that this new task force will help to pave the way toward an agreement that is fair and beneficial to all relevant parties.”

The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a federal lawsuit in August 2011 to prevent Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust from pumping water from Sardis Lake to Oklahoma City. Sardis lake is located within historic tribal territory in extreme southeastern Oklahoma.

While the case has been see-sawing from federal court to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and back to federal court, McGovern has been working behind the scenes to reach an accord. Officials believe the task force will provide a step in that direction.

The panel consists of 19 individuals. Anoatubby, Pyle and Fallin are joined by the likes of Amy Ford, leader of Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA); Aubrey McClendon, chief executive officer for Chesapeake Energy and great nephew of former U.S. Senator and Oklahoma Governor Robert S. Kerr; Clay Bennett, co-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and chairman of Dorchester Capital Corporation; Robert Henry, former attorney general for Oklahoma, former judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and current president of Oklahoma City University; Gary Batton, assistant chief of the Choctaw Nation; Mike Cawley, the longest tenured president of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation of Oklahoma and renowned bioscience enthusiast; Pete Delaney, president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Corp.; conservationist Pennie Embry who is active as coordinator for Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy and vice president of Save Our Water; Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma oil man ranked as the 30th richest person in America by Forbes Magazine. He was recently listed as the only Oklahoman in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People; Brian McClain, a legislative advocate for the Choctaw Nation; Larry Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer for Devon Energy Corp. and Mike Samis, an investor in real estate, oil and gas manufacturing, healthcare and entertainment, who served as president and chief executive officer for Macklanburg Duncan Co.

The Ada News was unable to obtain information on three other panelists, Glenn Coffee, Jim Couch and David Thompson.

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