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The City of Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City protects water rights with answer to Indian Tribes’ claims

(January 25, 2012) - Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust filed an answer today in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City disputing the unprecedented claims to water in Southeast Oklahoma made by two Indian Tribes.

An answer is the most common way to respond to a lawsuit and is the defendant's opportunity to respond to specific allegations brought against them in a complaint.

“The City’s answer will help protect the water sources on which many Oklahoma communities for decades have depended for tap water,” said Jim Couch, City Manager for Oklahoma City and a Trustee for the Water Utility.

The Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes filed suit against the City of Oklahoma City and State of Oklahoma on August 18, 2011.   The Tribes are claiming the rights to virtually all of the water in the Kiamichi, Clear Boggy and Muddy Boggy Basins in Southeast Oklahoma.  The water supply for much of Oklahoma comes from this part of the state.  The Tribes later amended their lawsuit to include a claim to the 100-mile long Atoka Pipeline that, for 50 years, has transported much of Oklahoma City’s water supply.

“The City’s answer in U.S. District Court rejects the Tribe’s claim that past treaties give them the right to all of this water.  While the Tribes do have some rights, these treaties and agreements clearly do not convey the broad rights that they are claiming,” Couch said.

The City is also participating in the mediation process ordered by the court. 

“The City is committed to continuing the mediation process while assuring through our answer filing in federal court that Oklahoma City and other legitimate water users will have a seat at the table in this case,” said Couch.   

The original complaint filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations comes at a time when Oklahoma is in the midst of the worst drought since the days of the dust bowl.  The City’s Water Utility has been working to both conserve and procure water, while the Tribes have decided this is the best time to take control over all the water in the Kiamichi, Clear Boggy and Muddy Boggy Basins.

The Utility’s sole focus is on procuring and delivering clean water for the long-term benefit of Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma.  By law, the Trust is not allowed to profit from the sale of water.

For more than 100 years the City’s Water Utility has provided clean and plentiful water to the people of Oklahoma City, Central and Southeast Oklahoma, while placing the highest value on protecting the environment and wildlife.  For more information, log on to www.okc.gov.

Kristy Yager, 297-2550/863-2831
kristy.yager@okc.gov

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