Saturday, December 10, 2016
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted 78-21 to pass the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The bill now moves to the president for his approval. Among other items, the WIIN Act includes the water agreement between Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.
“I applaud the U.S. Senate for passing the WIIN Act with strong, bipartisan support, and am hopeful it soon will become law. I want to especially acknowledge the hard work of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation in securing passage of this measure. The WIIN Act contains many items important to Oklahoma, including the water rights agreement reached this past summer with the state of Oklahoma, the city of Oklahoma City and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, culminating five years of negotiations.
“Under the agreement, the state will continue to exercise its authority to manage and protect water resources in Oklahoma. This way, existing uses of water remain secure, and it provides certainty for future development. The agreement also allows the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations to have a voice in specific proceedings addressing water resources within their treaty territories.
“I was glad to be able to sign the agreement in August. By entering into this agreement, all sides chose cooperation and collaboration over conflict. Having a sufficient, reliable supply of water is essential for life, economic development, manufacturing, recreational activities, and important industry sectors like tourism, energy and agriculture to name a few.
“I appreciate the determination and visionary leadership of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations and Oklahoma City. All parties worked tirelessly to reach an agreement that would be fair to everyone.
“This historic achievement addresses longstanding disputes regarding water in all of southeastern Oklahoma in a manner which builds positively on the unique and complex history of Oklahoma. Water is a shared resource in Oklahoma, not recognizing jurisdictional or territorial boundaries so finding a way to work together was vitally important. The agreement will protect existing rights and provide certainty for the development of future uses both in and outside southeastern Oklahoma.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The water rights agreement covers an area that spans approximately 22 counties in south-central and southeastern Oklahoma and provides a framework that fosters intergovernmental collaboration on significant water resource concerns within the settlement area. At the same time, the settlement protects existing water rights and affirms the state’s role in water rights permitting and administration. It also will implement a robust system of lake level release restrictions to allow Oklahoma City’s measured use of Sardis Lake for municipal supply purposes while continuing to support regionally critical recreation, fish and wildlife uses.