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Water officials, tribes hear water requests from north Texas


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Forget the Red River Rivalry. This could be the Red River water deal.

Some of the nation's best water is in the Kiamichi Basin in southeastern Oklahoma, and north Texas officials said Tuesday they were interested in buying some of it.

Water officials say a half-trillion gallons of water a year flows over the spillway at Lake Hugo in Choctaw County and is lost in the Red River where it mixes with salt water.

Jack Parks, speaking for several north Texas groups, said Dallas, Tarrant County and the Denison area would be interested in such "excess water" if it is for sale.

The state and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations claim to own water rights in the basin, with the tribes citing treaties with the federal government from more than 150 years ago.

Duane Smith, head of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, said any agreement between the state, American Indian leaders and another entity would have to be approved by the Legislature. He said the earliest that could happen would be this spring, but that it could be another year before an agreement would be ready to present to the Legislature.

Gov. Frank Keating and leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes decided in October to seek proposals from municipalities and private entities on how excess water should be sold.

Smith said any bid must guarantee sufficient water for residents around Sardis Lake and that economic development in southeastern Oklahoma, such as tourism, must be a key consideration. He also said the environmental integrity of the Kiamichi River must be maintained and that area wildlife must be protected.

The basin is a boomerang-shaped area that begins at the Arkansas state line and includes parts of six southeast Oklahoma counties.

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