Group Holds Off on Salmon Lawsuitby Steven Friederich, Journal Writer
Idaho State Journal, October 15, 2003
POCATELLO - A coalition of environmental groups has decided to hold off on a lawsuit that could lead to taking water for salmon to the severe detriment of agriculture in southern Idaho.
Environmental groups and water users have negotiated in Boise for the past month with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, to determine the fate of the agriculture industry and the region's salmon.
The coalition seeks more water from the upper Snake River to help send young salmon down the lower Snake and the Columbia rivers, said Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United. But water users feared giving any more water to fish in drought conditions could destroy the area's farm industry.
Four environmental groups had united to sue federal dam operators last month in Wyoming and Idaho, but were persuaded to negotiate with Crapo for at least 30 days.
Now, Crapo wants the groups to extend negotiations until next June, Sedivy said.
"That's a long, long time," Sedivy said. "But he's serious; he's committed. We asked for more time to consider his proposal."
June is also when a federal salmon plan is expected to be completed. Last May, U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland threw out the original salmon plan, which said wild fish could be saved from extinction by sending more water downstream from Idaho instead of breaching four lower Snake dams in Washington.
Sedivy said he would rather talk through the problems than litigate them, but added a lot of things could change between now and June. His groups will meet next week and then again with Crapo, perhaps the following week, he said.
"These are among the most political and complex issues in Idaho," Crapo said in a prepared statement. "Regarding solutions, we're not there yet, but we've only begun talking."
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