Department Of Interior
|Office of the Secretary||
Frank Quimby 202-208-7291
|For Immediate Release: May 15, 2004||
Diana Cross: 208-378-5020
Mike Journee: 208-334-2100
Nez Perce Water
Water Rights for Nez Perce; Provides
(BOISE, Idaho) -Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne and Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Anthony Johnson today announced an agreement to settle the Nez Perce water rights claims in the Snake River Basin.
"This framework agreement
clears the way for a long-term public water policy for Idaho and enables
the United States to fulfill trust responsibilities for the Tribe,"
Secretary Norton said in unveiling the terms of the settlement on the
Boise River at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival grounds here.
Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne
thanked the parties to the agreement for working out the framework solution
for a difficult water rights issue through a court-ordered mediation.
"State, private, tribal and U.S. representatives worked in good
faith over several years to develop options that provide mutual benefits,"
Kempthorne said. "The agreement will enable the State of Idaho
to more effectively address its responsibilities for water resource
management and the needs of protected fish. It also provides Idaho's
water users the assurance, security and flexibility they need to address
the water challenges facing their businesses and communities."
The Nez Perce claim to instream flow rights in the Snake River to protect its treaty-based fishery was the largest remaining issue in the state's adjudication of water rights in the Basin. This legal inventory, which affects 38 of Idaho's 44 counties, has been sorting out more than 150,000 claims over nearly 20 years, including those of the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Idaho, farmers and other agricultural users, towns, cities, industrial users, hydropower producers and various federal agencies.
Among the major initiatives,
the three sovereign parties will agree to use 200,000 acre-feet of water
in Dworshak Reservoir for a flow augmentation plan benefiting listed
species in the Snake River. The United States also will agree to tribal
management of Kooskia National Fish Hatchery and tribal comanagement
of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and establish a $50 million fund
for the Tribe to restore and improve fish habitat, develop water resources
and other agricultural projects.
Biological Opinions under
the ESA will address continued operation of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
projects and flows in the Snake River Basin, as well as the use of water
for flow augmentation for salmon. Reclamation would continue to lease
water from willing lessors and acquire consumptive natural flow water
in the Snake River to augment flows.
The agreement will launch
a habitat restoration and management initiative in the Salmon and Clearwater
River Basins to improve instream flows and fish habitat and passage
to benefit ESA-listed fish. The parties will agree on minimum flows
pursuant to a state law process for 174 rivers and streams that are
important for anadromous fish. These flows will be established in a
manner that protects all existing uses of water and provides for future
water development. A Habitat Fund will support improvements under this
program and the state will administer innovative cooperative agreements
under the ESA to enhance riparian habitat.
The settlement also will
include the transfer of mostly small, scattered parcels of federal land
within the present Nez Perce reservation to the Tribe. The transferred
units will be subject to all valid existing mineral claims, grazing
leases, rights of way and other rights and permitted uses. The parcels,
valued at $7 million, will assist overall management and provide valuable
compensation and benefit to the Tribe without incurring additional appropriations
To reach this agreement,
state, private, tribal and U.S. representatives worked through a court-ordered
mediation over several years under a confidentiality order of the Snake
River Basin Adjudication court. These parties will remain actively engaged
and work closely throughout the remainder of the settlement process.
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