Nez Perce Tribe Settles
by Bill Rudolph
The federal government, the state of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe announced a framework agreement to settle the tribe’s claim to instream flow rights in the Snake Basin to protect its treaty-based fishery, the largest issue remaining to be settled in the 20-year adjudication of Snake River water claims. The long process has been sorting out 150,000 water claims of the tribe, the state of Idaho, farmers, municipalities, hydro users and federal agencies. The tribal claim has been in mediation since 1998.
Terms include using 200,000 acre-feet of water in Dworshak reservoir to benefit ESA-listed species in the Snake, turning over the federally operated Kooskia hatchery to the Nez Perce, establishing a $50 million fund for the tribe to improve and restore fish habitat, and develop water resources and other agricultural projects. The parties will also agree on minimum flows for 174 rivers and streams.
Scattered parcels of federal land within the Nez Perce Reservation, valued at $7 million, will be transferred to the tribe, with the total federal share of the settlement pegged at $193 million over the next 30 years.
The settlement also calls for the state of Idaho to extend provisions in its water law to allow the Bureau of Reclamation to lease up to 427,000 acre-feet from water banks for augmenting flows in the Snake River.
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