Forum Participants Reach No Agreementsby Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune, September 28, 2003
BOISE -- No major agreements were reached Saturday in the deadlock over options to provide adequate river flows for migrating salmon and steelhead trout.
But the forum, held at the Idaho Statehouse at the prompting of U.S. Sen. Michael Crapo, moved toward resolving immediate water issues, such as next year's flows.
More than 30 representatives from agriculture, environmental groups, tribes and government met late into the afternoon Saturday in an effort to head off a legal confrontation over the issue.
"I think we got a lot of things out on the table today between the state and the irrigators and the environmental groups," said state Rep. Del Raybould, R-Rexburg. "We got things started to have further discussions."
Crapo had been careful not to raise expectations of agreement before the meeting.
"It was primarily a day of establishing the boundaries of the issues," and then deciding whether the stakeholders could proceed without litigation, Crapo said.
"The conclusion of the group, which I think it was unanimous, was yes, there was the potential" to do that, he said.
Crapo said irrigators expressed great concern over the management of the 2004 water year in the Upper Snake River basin, where snowpack is stored in reservoirs. The water from those impounds is used for farmers' crops, but it also provides a current and water volume for salmon smolts to find their way downstream and out to open ocean.
Government-set river flow targets on the Snake have not been met in the past three years, Crapo said. The question, he said, is how to maximize water for salmon and steelhead without hurting farmers.
That's where the public conversation ended. Crapo was unwilling to disclose specific options being considered by negotiators.
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