EPA and the Chickasaw Nation: Working Together to Ensure Long-Term Sustainability and Quality of our Water

By Ann Keeley

Some very exciting events took place last week here in Ada, Oklahoma—EPA’s Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center hosted the 50th Anniversary dedication of the Center. A highlight of the celebration included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our groundwater remediation and ecosystem restoration scientists and the Chickasaw Nation, a federally recognized American Indian Tribal Nation, also located in Ada.

The Chickasaw Nation will conduct research, lead community outreach efforts, and initiate development and implementation activities in support of the Chickasaw-Choctaw Regional Water Plan and Arbuckle-Simpson Drought Contingency Project that focuses on water conservation, water supply security, and drought resiliency for the communities within the Chickasaw Nation. Our scientists will contribute through research and development activities in support of programs and regional priorities, and the development and analysis of sustainable water and land management systems to improve the environmental quality and community health and awareness in south central Oklahoma.

The MOU being signed at the ceremony

Lek Kadeli  and Bill Anoatubby sign the Memorandum of Understanding between EPA and the Chickasaw Nation during the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center’s 50th Anniversary Event Celebration.

Lek Kadeli, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Management in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, gave remarks in honor of the signing.

Kadeli confidently predicted that in another 50 years at the Ada 100th Anniversary, this collaboration will be recognized not only for its scientific achievement, but for the water resource management decisions that allowed this region to thrive. “The people of Ada, Oklahoma and the people of our nation will benefit from the collaboration of the Chickasaw Nation and the Office of Research and Development.” Kadeli stated.

Anoatubby shared with everyone how EPA was the first federal agency to develop policies to work with tribes as sovereign nations, and expressed his appreciation for our Agency being on the forefront of these efforts. With sincerity and conviction he went on to say, “Being able to work with the EPA lab will have a positive impact not only for both parties, but also for the surrounding community. The goals of the MOU can’t be separated from the community goals – they are one in the same – ensuring the long-term sustainability and quality of our water.” The ceremony concluded with Kadeli and Anoatubby signing the official written agreement.

Distinguished guests at the event included EPA officials; current and retired colleagues; and leaders from regional, state, and tribal governments. Also attending was the President of East Central University, John R. Hargrave, other local affiliated academics, and business and community leaders.

At EPA’s Kerr Center, we are committed to helping the Chickasaw Nation and other regional federal tribal nations strengthen their ability to manage associated environmental programs. Through our work, partnerships and mission, we ensure that tribes have a voice in decisions that affect their land, air, and water.

About the Author: Dr. Ann Keeley is an Environmental Microbiologist, and Chief of the Ecosystem Subsurface Protection Branch in Ada, Oklahoma. She has a B.S. in Health with emphasis in clinical microbiology, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Microbiology from Mississippi State University. Her research area is combined treatment technologies. She joined EPA in 1998.

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