By Patrick B. McGuigan| CapitolBeatOK
OKLAHOMA CITY — Almost everyone knows about Oklahoma City‘s Thunder, a young National Basketball Association franchise that nearly won it all in last year’s strike-shortened season. Less widely known is that Oklahoma’s capital city has not only weathered the Great Recession, but is now leading the nation in many economic indices.
Now, there’s a specter haunting OKC, the threat of a fight over water rights that could stall — even reverse — the city’s historic growth.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations sued this year to block Oklahoma City’s use of water from southeast Oklahoma.The legal fight has a PR component. Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle have spent millions to persuade Oklahomans they merely seek to protect water purity and assert sovereign rights.
If so, that would mark a reversal on the tribes’ stated goal of selling water to the highest bidder. In 2001, the tribes’ own “review of issues” concluded the water supply was sufficient to act on proposed water-transfer contracts, including inter-state sales then under discussion with the Lone Star State’s Tarrant County and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. That — and not their recent, more selfless talk — would explain why the tribes have also spent a lot of money on politics, not only in Oklahoma, but in neighboring Texas.
Citing their lawsuit, an attorney for both tribes this week declined comment on the tribal leaders apparent about-face.
Contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.