Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: April 20, 2010
Sen. Jerry Ellis and Sen. Jim Wilson along with their colleagues
in the Democratic Caucus
protested plans by Oklahoma City to purchase the water of Sardis
Lake Tuesday at the State Capitol.
Southeastern Oklahoma Lawmakers Decry Secret
Grab for Control of Sardis Lake
State Sen. Jerry
Ellis, D-Valliant, and Sen. Jim
Wilson, D-Tahlequah, are protesting plans by Oklahoma City to
purchase the water of Sardis Lake—plans they say would be
premature, given a statewide water study mandated by the State Legislature
will not even be completed for another two years.
Ellis said he wrote to Gov. Brad Henry in February expressing his
opposition to any agreement to transfer water prior to the completion
of the study. He also asked to be included in future discussions
dealing with Sardis Lake as it is located in his district, but received
no response whatsoever.
“We don’t even know what the true dollar value of this
water is—much less the economic and environmental impact such
a transfer would have on the southeastern counties of our state,”
Ellis said. “Just as objectionable is the fact that this agreement
seems to be in the hands of the state’s Water Resources Board
which does not have a single member from our area.”
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Sardis Lake
has been the subject of a federal lawsuit originally filed in 1998
over unpaid costs of construction of the lake. A settlement was
reached last year for more than $27 million. A payment of more than
$5 million must be made by July 1.
“Of course Oklahoma City has expressed their willingness to
make the payment and take control of the water. But, we have another
offer from the Choctaw Nation,” said Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah.
“Given the track record of water deals between Oklahoma City
and southeastern Oklahoma, we’re much more inclined to believe
the Choctaws have our best interest at heart.”
Wilson and Ellis pointed out water from Atoka Lake and McGee Creek
is already being transferred to Oklahoma City. The surrounding region
was promised economic development and jobs. “But all we got
in the end were some picnic tables. That was it,” Ellis said.
“Without a doubt, Sardis Lake is an invaluable resource in
what is probably the poorest part of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, there
are people in power who are more willing to exploit that poverty
at pennies on the dollar,” Wilson said.
Suggestions that Kaw Lake could be a viable alternative to provide
water to Oklahoma City instead of Sardis Lake have also been ignored.
The lawmakers said they want three things to occur on behalf of
the citizens of southeastern Oklahoma. First, the legislators want
to ensure no agreement is made until the statewide water study is
completed. Secondly, they want the make-up of the Water Resources
Board to be revised so that citizens from southeastern Oklahoma
have representation in future discussions. Thirdly, the lawmakers
want to make sure that any negotiations on use take into account
future, additional needs by the region in promoting their own economic
development and growth.
“We need to make sure that any plans made take into account
the fact that economic development in southeastern Oklahoma means
we will need to plan for greater water use than we currently need,”
Ellis said. “If Oklahoma City is allowed to take it all away
now, then the people of southeastern Oklahoma will be robbed of
the opportunity to create a better life for future generations.”
For more information, contact:
Sen. Ellis: (405) 521-5614
Sen. Wilson: (405) 521-5574