Editor, The Ada News:
When our longstanding efforts to commence meaningful water negotiations with state officials failed to produce results, the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations had no reasonable option but to file suit that seeks to stop what we hold to be the unauthorized actions of state and municipal officials. For an appropriate resolution, we believe the parties must stop acting unilaterally in trying to export our most precious natural resource.
Our goal has always been and will always be reasonable resolution — one that benefits all Oklahomans. We structured our suit to facilitate a forum for this type of resolution. Since we filed, the parties (at the court’s encouragement) have met and agreed to negotiations and this month, the court has issued an order appointing a mediator. That is a very positive step forward; one that we hope marks our taking a responsible step toward meaningful engagement and resolution.
At the same time and away from the negotiating table, the state has indicated it intends to start a massive stream adjudication that would reach from the city of Ada to the Arkansas border and include all or part of 11 counties. On December 13, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board will consider authorizing the filing of such suit, which will broaden and entrench the conflicts among Oklahomans over water resource issues.
Unlike the carefully structured suit the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed, Oklahoma’s lawsuit will proceed against thousands of individual Oklahomans, seeking to force each and every one of them to retain a lawyer and proceed to court to prove whatever right to water they think they have or their neighbors don’t have. Not only would such action — if Oklahoma follows through with it — not resolve the issues the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have highlighted in their suit, but the state’s lawsuit would condemn Oklahomans to a generational fight that pits neighbor against neighbor and community against community on a scale that this state has never seen before.