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Walters' words were not heeded

Walters' words were not heeded

Fourth Reading: Walters’ words were not heeded

by M. Scott Carter

Published: January 17th, 2013, Journal Record

 

Several years ago, before the water lawsuit between Texas and Oklahoma, before the fight between Oklahoma City and the Choctaws and the Chickasaws, before the water war began, a man stood in front of a small audience and made a statement.

 The man, a former governor of Oklahoma, urged leaders to develop a natural resource policy that included good stewardship of the state’s water resources and a method for marketing and selling excess water to those entities wishing to purchase it.

Former Gov. David Walters made this same statement several times, then ended his speech with this warning: “If we don’t address the issue, the courts will and Oklahoma will be told what to do with its water, instead of being able to make that decision on its own.”

Again, no one listened.

Just after the new year started, Walters was proven right.

The holidays were barely over when the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would hear the Tarrant Regional Water District’s lawsuit against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. That announcement came after the solicitor general filed a brief with the court, asking that the lawsuit be heard.

However, there was more to the brief than just a request for a hearing.

Buried on Page 20 was a two-paragraph statement that took the water war to a new level. The statement told the court that it also needed to consider the rights of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in its decision of the Tarrant County lawsuit.

It was a legal bombshell few expected.

With that simple statement, the tribes’ lawsuit over the Sardis Lake Reservoir and the raging debate over the purchase of Oklahoma water by Texas interests suddenly became one large battle.

Now, we wait.

A decade ago, Walters called for a policy to address water sales. Ten years after Walters urged the state to think ahead, the leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations asked to be included in the negotiations over the purchase of the Sardis Lake reservoir.

Again, no one listened.

Today the whole issue is now a giant legal quagmire that has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees.

In just a few days, the Oklahoma Legislature will return to the state Capitol and, like last year, lawmakers will struggle in their attempts to develop a comprehensive water policy.

Although a great deal of work has already been done, the final decision about the state’s water policy won’t be made by an Oklahoman.

Despite the urging of a former governor, the pleadings of tribal leaders, and the millions of dollars and the thousands of hours spent by agencies and experts, the final decision on Oklahoma’s water policy now rests with the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

We had the chance to make our own decision a decade ago.

We had the opportunity two years ago to bring all the parties together and talk.

Instead, we put politics ahead of policy and took a decision that could have laid the foundation for a long-term water policy and handed it the Supreme Court.

Sometime soon, we will all find out just how good of an idea that was.

Complete URL: 

http://journalrecord.com/2013/01/17/fourth-reading-walters-words-were-not-heeded-opinion/

 


 

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