In this time when government is seen as dysfunctional and “compromise” is often used as a pejorative term, it was encouraging to see the historic negotiation of a water rights settlement between the state of Oklahoma, the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations and the city of Oklahoma City.
The issues were extremely complicated. Protection of the environment, recognition of sovereignty rights, ensuring water resources for future growth and economic development, and providing recreational opportunities for all Oklahomans are just a few of the thorny issues resolved. Ownership and water usage can evoke strong emotions as well.
All of the parties and their negotiators, including the governor and the attorney general, deserve to be commended for both their courage and good faith. Historically, water disputes have lasted centuries without resolution. In this instance, no less than five sovereign entities were able to forge a compromise that recognized and resolved a multitude of complex claims and interests.
The stakes were high for all parties involved, but through cooperation, sensitivity, and yes, compromise, an agreement was struck that will benefit everyone. The compromise may also open the door for even more cooperation in the future.
This agreement required confident leaders willing to work together to protect their own self-interests while understanding that the goals of all involved must be addressed. Compromise is not surrender. The law and our political systems encourage – and sometimes even necessitate – compromise.
We applaud these leaders for reaching an agreement that is of vital importance to our state’s future. The final step is approval by Congress. We trust they will recognize the value and wisdom of this historic compromise and approve it quickly.
Column by Fred Morgan, President and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, printed in The Journal Record on September 16, 2016