Crapo: Litigation won't Resolve Salmon Debateby Jennifer Sandmann
Times-News, November 21, 2003
BOISE -- U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo urged Idaho water interests Thursday to seek a collaborative solution to the state's water battles.
The Idaho Republican, who is in Washington D.C., addressed a crowd of more than 200 over speakerphone.
Litigation over the Endangered Species Act in the salmon recovery debate so far has been focused on the Snake River downstream of Hells Canyon dam, Crapo said.
Now it's moving upstream and into Idaho. The major players in Snake River water convened at the Idaho Water Users Association's 20th annual water law seminar. It concludes today at the DoubleTree Hotel Boise Riverside. Water attorneys, irrigators, federal water brokers, members of the Nez Perce tribe and water experts representing the various intricacies of water management in Idaho are in attendance.
Environmentalists threatening to sue over more water for fish earlier this month told Crapo they would stand down for the 2004 irrigation season. But the Coalition for Idaho Water, a water users association, announced this week that it may sue the federal government. The coalition wants to distance the Snake River Basin in Idaho -- the river and its tributaries above Hells Canyon dam -- from the salmon debate.
The issues can't be resolved through the courts, Crapo said. Litigation can only produce a cycle of legal battles, he said.
"Ultimately, in my opinion, we'll continue to have litigation for a long time" unless a collaborative solution is found, Crapo said.
Both he and U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who also spoke from Washington D.C. over speakerphone, said Idaho water users can't count on Congress to change the Endangered Species Act that governs salmon recovery. They said such legislation doesn't have enough support in Congress.
Other tidbits from Thursday's session include:
The road to salmon recovery should include an assessment of the amount of responsibility parties have in the undertaking and then be distributed accordingly, Tucker said.
Other researchers disagree with his conclusions about flow augmentation.
While salmon recovery advocates support flow augmentation, they say that the best chance for salmon is breaching the four lower Snake River dams in Washington state.
The department has made cutbacks in some programs, because of the state budget crunch. If revenue doesn't improve next year, total programs could be eliminated.
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