BY BOB JACKMAN
The agenda for the recent Oklahoma Water Resources Board emergency meeting: Vote to accept or reject Oklahoma City’s offer to buy 87% of water storage rights at Sardis Lake. It was approved in what was an obviously predetermined, done-deal.
Gov. Brad Henry delivered on his promises to Oklahoma City to help make them “Water Masters of Oklahoma.” Henry did not attend the meeting but the OWRB director acted like he was.
OWRB tried to spin it like – it’s only about Sardis Lake water storage rights, not about the lake’s water rights allocations! Oh, really: A lake’s storage rights and its water allocations are welded together like Siamese’s twins joined at the hip – they always go in lock step together.
Three of the five senators honored by The Oklahoma Observer as the 2010 session’s best – Jerry Ellis, Jim Wilson and Jay Paul Gumm – were there, plus from rural districts Reps. Brian Renegar, Paul Roan, R.C. Pruett, Dennis Bailey, and Ed Cannaday.
They spoke with reason and passion to the board in opposition to granting Sardis storage rights to Oklahoma City; against granting without transparency and any open negotiations with other bidders invited.
Chief Gregory Pyle of Choctaw Nation and Chairperson Brenda Edwards of Caddo Nation were present. Pyle in his gentle, statesman’s manner voiced opposition and made an offer from Choctaws to match or better OKC’s offer. Sen. Wilson offered a touching story, describing the transfer of Sardis to OKC as a regional rape, plundering the poor – but it had already been decided before the meeting.
The meeting room had a standing room crowd – the majority from southeastern Oklahoma. Many drove there from Little Dixie after given short notice of the meeting. To make the 9:30 a.m. meeting in time to get a seat, most left the house at 5 a.m. for long drives to Oklahoma City. Then long silent angry drives back to feed cattle, get some pasture mowing and spraying done before dark.
This may have been the largest united gathering ever of elected Oklahoma State Officials with regional Tribal elected leaders together protesting against State of Oklahoma.
Little Dixie woke up from its long slumber, fighting mad over its threaten water rights.
Little Dixie, Southeastern Oklahoma’s forgotten, sad pocket of poverty now has a group of outstanding independent-minded state politicians actually fighting for their people and speaking up for their best interests, as opposed to the Gene Stipe era when all ran to him for guidance!
Oklahoma City, by its arrogance and greed, has made a major mistake. The OKC city manager angered Sen. Ellis and Chief Pyle and lots of others. They have retained former Oklahoma Attorney General Larry Derryberry and others to mount a legal challenge against the OWRB and their enabler’s actions cannibalizing democracy.
According to information I’ve received, multiple law suits will be filed against OKC, OWRB and the State of Oklahoma, plus possibly OWRB’s individual board members over Sardis Lake. Tribes and others have necessary funds for protracted litigation; they will fight with years of pent up furry.
One OWRB board member is another example of the metro ruling class’s pompous behavior – which helped wake up and bring unity to Little Dixie. Her condescending, harsh, talking-down to meeting’s audience of courteous, recently honored elected public officials and Tribal top leaders plus long-time rural citizen veterans of Oklahoma water wars; telling then how fair and equitable OWRB Board is!
It was straight out of corporate upper crust’s playbook on how to treat and handle lowly ankle-biters from southeastern Oklahoma. By doing so she showed her posterior: Didn’t know what she didn’t know about the history of dirty water allocations and mismanagement, current and past by OWRB in bed with its cronies here and across the Red River.
Property rights [water rights] are one of the foundations of our civil society and political system. It is being tested in Oklahoma’s Kiamichi River basin.
It is a public fight. Join in.
– Bob Jackman is a Tulsa geologist and an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer