August 13, 2010
Subject: Transfer of Sardis Lake Water Storage; Judgement in Favor of United States of America
At a Special Meeting of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in June, 2010, the Board attempted to transfer stored water and water rights from the State of Oklahoma to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust. The documents presented in the links below indicate that the board, the Governor and legislative leaders all had knowledge that this transfer could not take place and be effective.
The PDF attachment here contains the full response of the United States Army Corps of Engineers dated May 20, 2010.
June 11, 2010
OWRB approves Transfer of Sardis Lake Storage to Oklahoma City
The Sardis Lake storage contract transfer agreement. which was considered and approved by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (OCWUT) on Monday, was similarly approved, with minor modifications, by the OWRB on Friday. The agreement effectively transfers the State of Oklahoma's water storage rights at Sardis to Oklahoma City, along with the state's existing obligation to the Federal Government. OCWUT would also reimburse the State for past Sardis water storage payments and costs. A recent Federal district court order requires Oklahoma to pay off, within five years, its $27 million obligation for the construction of additional water supply storage in Sardis Lake, with the next payment due by July1.
Through the transfer agreement, coupled with an existing application for water rights in the basin, which will be considered next, OCWUT seeks to acquire, 136,000 acre/feet of drinking water per year to share with central Oklahoma communities, which collectively face near-term water deficits.
Through a separate public hearing process, the OWRB will address Oklahoma City's permit application for the right to use water from the basin.
UPDATE ON SARDIS LAKE REPRINTED FROM THE JOURNAL RECORD MAY 10TH, 2010
Reprinted From The Journal Record May 11, 2010
Troubled Waters – Sale of Sardis Put On Hold
Oklahoma City – The sale of southeastern Oklahoma’s Sardis Reservoir to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust has been put on hold while state officials work to address concerns raised by two Native American tribes.
State Treasurer Scott Meacham, Gov. Brad Henry’s chief negotiator for the sale, confirmed the deal – which could reach the $100 million mark – was on ice while officials met with tribal leaders.
“Its temporarily on hold to give us time to sit down with the tribes and work something out,” Meacham said. “We want to be sensitive to their concerns and their needs . The tribes obviously, don’t want the State and the City of Oklahoma City to proceed with this.”
Although both sides have been actively negotiating the sale of Sardis for several months, a joint letter from the leader of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations has sidelined the the deal.
The April 21 letter written b y Greg Pyle, chief of the Choctaw Nation and Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said the sale would be “a profound deviation from the good history of partnership” between both tribes and the state.
“The contemplated Oklahoma – Oklahoma City transaction raises significant questions as to the states actual authority and jurisdiction over this subject,” both men wrote in a letter to Henry . “Those are questions we would prefer to work out with you rather than resolve through any formal conflict.”
Pyle and Anotubby said the tribes were excluded from the sale negotiations.
“We have been generally aware that negotiations on this subject have been ongoing between state Treasurer Scott Meacham, acting on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch,” the paid wrote. “However, while Mr. Meacham has been aware of the Nation’s interests and concerns, the Nations have not been allowed to participate in those closed negotiations.”
Not so Meacham said.
“To say that we haven’t been talking with them isn’t accurate, Meacham said . “We have been in discussions with the Chickasaws for over two years and, up until recently, the Choctaws wouldn’t even sit down and talk to us about it.”
The tribes aren’t alone. This spring a group of southeastern Oklahoma lawmakers held a press conference at the state Capitol to announce their opposition to the contract. That press conference came on the heels of a letter sent by Oklahoma’s for Responsible Water policy, which called the contract an “under-the radar water snatching scheme, involving water from Sardis Lake.’
Lawmakers, echoing ORWP, said they were concerned because no one from southeastern Oklahoma was included in the negotiations.
“This type of contract treats southeastern Oklahoma like a Third World country” said Sen. J. Paul Gumm, D-Durant.
“They are taking resources from the area and yet they aren’t including anyone from the same area in negotiations. That’s wrong.”
Meacham countered, saying tribal and other leaders have been aware of the negotiations for “quite a while.”
“It would be very unfair to cast this as something that came as a complete surprise,” he said.
Public opposition to the plan appears to be building.
On May 6, more than 900 people attended an ORWP-sponsored rally to protest the Sardis contract.
“As we all know, water is a vital resource – key to any future sustainable development,” Amy ford, the executive director of ORWP, said in a media statement. “We must protect our water from outside interests who see this area not as a place to live, but a place to exploit. Local control is the key.”
Its that argument, some legal experts say, that could prove effective, provided its made by representatives of the Indian tribes.
“A lot of it goes back to treaties.” said Tulsa attorney Michael McBride III.
“Years ago, the federal government promised the tribes they would have jurisdiction and would remain without state control.”
McBride, Chairman of Crowe and Dunlevy’s Indian Law and Gaming Practice Group, said an agreement – the 1830 treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek – gives the territory and says state law would have no effect on the tribes.
“A lot of water rights of Indian tribes are not yet quantified,” he said. “They haven’t been adjudicated, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t legal rights which the tribes can pursue.
Additionally, because both the enabling act and the Oklahoma Constitution disclaim any right, title or interest to Indian Country, McBride said the state’s Native American tribes have a powerful legal argument over water rights in southeastern Oklahoma.
“They still have significant treaty rights and they still have significant jurisdictional rights which include water rights,” he said. “Debates like this are going to be a part of the biggest issue facing Oklahoma in the next half century.”
Sardis water to Lake Atoka to Oklahoma City to --- Dallas! What the tom-toms in the Capitol are saying.
It all starts with the history of Sardis Lake. The deal: The deal. The State and the USACE, the Corps, entered into an agreement whereby the Corps would build the dam and then the water would sold to neigboring towns to pay the cost of construction of the dam, about eigthteen million dollars. This was in the late seventies and early eighties but it didn't work. The interest kept compounding and at one time the state debt to the Corps was around eighty million dollars. in order avoid the federeal government cutting off all kinds of federal funds to the state and under supervision of the federal court, the state begin paying the Corps, about five million dollarsa year.
Late in the fall of 2009 there was anannouncement by Senator Coffee at the Governor's Water Conference that a settlement had been made and deal was fixed. Oklahoma City would pay the Corps twenty-seven million dollars in exchange for the rights to 88% of the usable water in Sardis. Apparently would receive a permit from OWRB and then OKC would pump the water to Atoka, then to Draper and then - to Dallas?
The Central Oklahoma group, composed of Shawnee, Norman, Piedmont and others cities who badly need the water, thought that they would be a part of this deal until the Dallas angle showed up.
Then last week the tribes, that is the Choctaws and the Chickasaws moved in. "Stop this or we will sue on environmental, economic and cultural damage grounds to our tribal areas.
Now, there is so much money at the table between the tribes, OKC and the other cities in Central Oklahoma and twenty seven million dollars is peanuts compared to the value of 88% of Sardis water forever and money has a way of clarifying things. All of sudden, a quiet little deal between the state and OKC is in the headlights. The tribes, OKC, the Central Oklahoma Group and probably others, are all chomping at the bit to pay twenty-seven million for the water and either resell it locally or to Dallas or both.
Wait a minute! Surface water is permitted water that must have a beneficial use and a permit from OWRB. Have the laws changed?