Water Coalition Asks Court
by Associated Press
BOISE -- Water-user groups have asked a federal judge to let them intervene in a lawsuit brought by environmentalists over the effect of upper Snake River reservoirs on migrating salmon and steelhead.
The Coalition for Idaho Water, the Idaho Water Users Association and irrigation districts in Idaho and eastern Oregon filed the request Wednesday, nearly a week after Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne made a similar request.
Coalition spokesman Norm Semanko said the request would send a message to environmentalists.
"Idaho will not stand idly by while its water comes under misguided attack by groups who have clearly exhibited a callous disregard for the well-being of Idaho's citizens," Semanko said.
The water groups claim the lawsuit would deny water to farms, deplete aquifers and ground water supplies and harm recreation.
Five environmental and fisheries groups have asked U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland, Ore., to require federal fish managers to consider the impact of about a dozen federal dams above Hells Canyon and some below on the fish runs.
They claim the dams have inhibited the river's natural flow that the fish need to reach the sea and return to spawn. To offset that impact, the state had been flushing 427,000 acre feet of water down the river - until drought conditions the past three years have made it impossible to meet that flow target (see fishflow.htm).
Environmental leaders maintain that federal law requires the rivers and dams to be managed to assure the survival of the fish runs.
Resolutions supporting the state's fight against the environmentalists' suit and opposing breaching the four lower Snake River dams advanced in the Idaho Legislature this week.
Bill Sedivy of Idaho Rivers United, one of the five groups in the legal action, testified against the resolutions on Tuesday, saying they offer "false hope that the problems facing Idaho's endangered salmon and steelhead runs will simply disappear if the state says `no' to the idea of removing four low-value/high-cost dams in Eastern Washington."
Regional Groups Join Water Users by Associated Press, Lewiston Tribune 10/24/3
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