A group of lawmakers from southeastern Oklahoma expressed their displeasure with a deal for Oklahoma City to start buying water from Sardis Lake in Pushmataha County, southeast of McAlester.
Several state senators held a press conference and said a secret deal has been made for Oklahoma City to purchase the water rights for more than $42 million. The senators claim a study and appraisal of the lake is not complete, and no sale should go through until the study is done. They said the state and the local area around the lake could be losing out on millions of dollars.
“This is regional discrimination,” said Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant.
The concerns center around unpaid lake construction costs the state has owed since 1998, when a lawsuit was filed. The state settled last year after agreeing to pay $27 million. A payment of $5 million is due at the end of June.
Senators said the Choctaw Nation is also interested in purchasing the water and may pay a higher price than Oklahoma City.
“This is another attempt to treat southeastern Oklahoma like a third-world county,” said Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant.
The senators are also skeptical of the deal because Oklahoma City already purchased water from nearby Atoka Lake and McGee Creek, with the promise of jobs and economic development.
“But all we got in the end were some picnic tables,” Ellis said.
According to documents, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust agreed to acquire the rights of Sardis Lake from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board at the Trust’s April 13 meeting. The Trust agreed to pay the $27 million the state owed to the U.S. government for construction of the lake, as well as an additional $15 million.
Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, said Oklahoma City obtained a loan of $70 million to pay for the deal.
Oklahoma Gazette is waiting for a response from Oklahoma City officials. “Scott Cooper
photo Sunset on Sardis Lake. photo/Mark Hancock