The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General today filed an application on behalf of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) asking the State Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction over a comprehensive stream adjudication to determine who has rights to the waters of three major stream systems in southeastern Oklahoma. The motion comes after the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have aggressively pursued litigation in which they claim the right to all the waters in these streams.
Governor Fallin released the following statement concerning water policy and the action taken today by the state:
"My goal is to work with legislators, the tribes and other interested parties to develop a water policy that benefits all Oklahomans in all areas of the state. It's an important issue and we need to get it right, not just in the short term, but for our children and grandchildren as well. Oklahoma's water future affects urban and rural residents, businesses, the oil and natural gas industries, agriculture and tourism. It has an impact on both our environment and our economy. My interest is in charting a path forward that protects the rights of every Oklahoman, including tribal members, and that guarantees an adequate supply of water.
"I continue to hope that such a policy can be developed through mediation, with all parties negotiating in good faith, without a prolonged and expensive legal battle. The state filed its application today with great reluctance. However, the attorney general and I both believe that requesting the Oklahoma State Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction over a comprehensive stream adjudication is the best way to protect and establish certainty over the water rights of all Oklahomans, including members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations."
More information on stream adjudications (source: Oklahoma Water Resources Board)
"In a general stream adjudication, a court decides the water rights in a particular stream system. The court will determine priority, place of use, purpose of use and amount of right, all relative to each other. It is not a suit by the State to take away water rights. It is a process through which all legally-recognized water rights will be confirmed."