The Norman Transcript


May 9, 2012

Water task force brings heavy hitters

NORMAN — If the task force charged with coming up with a workable solution to the state water rights fuss fails, it won’t be for lack of effort or member horsepower. The federal court hearing the tribes’ lawsuit on water rights brought together a lineup of the state’s heavyweight hitters.

The task force, among others, includes the governor, the chiefs of the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, the leaders of Devon, Continental and Chesapeake energy companies, the president of Oklahoma City University, the head of OG&E and Oklahoma City’s city manager.

That’s not a group known for procrastination, shyness or irrational behavior. Their deliberations will be secret, as so ordered by the court. Mediator Francis E. McGovern will report the task force’s proceedings to the federal court.

The proceedings follow nine months of posturing by the tribes and the state after the federal lawsuit filing by the Chickasaws and Choctaws. The two tribes are asserting they own the water rights in a 22-county watershed of southeastern Oklahoma.

The fuss started a few years back when thirsty north Texas started looking for water to serve their growing suburbs. It became cheaper to try and buy Oklahoma water than to build their own reservoirs. The courts turned Texas down, and the state asked for time to come up with a comprehensive plan before any sale is approved.

The court in March granted a 60-day delay in the proceedings so all sides could cool off and try and work together. That ends in late May, and we expect any progress by the task force could give the judge cause to extend the stay.

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