Water supply adequate to support sales, tribal analysis concluded
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Published: 22-Apr-2010

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 22-Apr-2010

An engineering study conducted for the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes concluded early in this decade that Oklahoma’s water supply was sufficient to engage proposed water transfer contracts, including inter-state water sales, which were then under discussion. 

The “review of issues and assumptions” was the result of a contract the two tribes, based in Southeast Oklahoma, made with an independent firm to study “water management issues raised by the [2001] compact with the State of Oklahoma and the proposed water transfer contract with the North Texas Water Alliance (NTWA).”

Analysis was predicated on “full protection of future Oklahoma water resources,” the consultants for the Choctaws and Chickasaws said. According to the document, “The primary focus of this independent review is to assure the full protection of Oklahoma water resources, including water supply, in-stream flow needs for fish and aquatic life (e.g. mussels), as well as dependable high reservoir levels for fish spawning, waterfowl habitat, fishing, hunting and other recreational uses.”

The analysis further assumed the following: “A future diversion from the Kiamichi River to Oklahoma City will have priority over any future Texas water supply diversions from Below Hugo. Neither water supply diversion will be allowed to draw-down Sardis or Hugo Reservoirs below levels that fully protect recreation uses. Lake level management plans developed and recommended by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) will be implemented for both Sardis and Hugo Reservoirs.”

Methodical study of the report with its charts detailing runoff, lake elevations, in-stream flow and other issues from as long ago as 1925 to as recently as 2000 indicated sufficient water supply for projected potential use of the water.

In sum, the engineering report provides in six pages of analysis and a dozen charts evidence that retained or in-stream water in Oklahoma is sufficient, or can be managed, to meet the needs of the state, including Oklahoma City, and still allow long-term water sales to Texas.

On Tuesday (April 20), state Sen. Jim Wilson of Tahlequah led a group of southeast Oklahoma senators expressing opposition to any potential water sale to Oklahoma City from Sardis Lake. Wilson said he believed the “Choctaws have our best interest at heart.”

The report was prepared by the firm of Jones & Stokes, independent consultants based in Sacramento, California. The firm is now known as ICF International (formerly ICF Jones & Stokes). Although the Choctaw-Chickasaw report is not available online, information about the firm that conducted the study is available at www.icfi.com.

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