Growers Back Nez Perce Water Dealby Dave Wilkins, Idaho Staff Writer
Capital Press, December 17, 2004
POCATELLO, Idaho -- Idaho potato growers have endorsed the controversial Nez Perce water agreement.
Potato Growers of Idaho lent its support to the proposed agreement during the organization’s annual meeting here this week.
Supporters of the agreement say it’s the best way to resolve water claims by the Nez Perce tribe in the Snake River Basin.
The deal is also seen as a step toward finally resolving the Snake River Basin Adjudication, a process that has been dragging on for decades.
The state Legislature, Congress and the Nez Perce Tribe must approve the proposed agreement by March 31, 2005.
Failure to approve the deal could jeopardize irrigators’ rights in Southern Idaho, said PGI spokesman Keith Frank.
“It’s time to wrap this up,” Frank told growers this week. “We put ourselves in real jeopardy if the agreement isn’t ratified.”
The tentative agreement announced in May includes provisions for augmenting Snake River flows to aid salmon recovery, while preserving the ability of irrigation districts to deliver water to farmers and ranchers.
The deal allows the Bureau of Reclamation to continue leasing up to 427,000 acre feet of Snake River water from the state water bank for flow augmentation, provided that the water is there.
The agreement keeps intact the “willing seller” system, a key point for irrigators.
If the deal isn’t approved, the Nez Perce tribe has promised to go to federal court, and that’s a prospect that should worry irrigators, Frank said.
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