the film
Commentaries and editorials

Guess Who Wins, Loses
in State-Tribe Water Deal

by Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, May 23, 2004

The Nez Perce Tribe and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne sat down and made a deal. They each grabbed a leg and cut up the hog.

In the landmark agreement among Idaho, the tribe and the federal government announced the other day, Kempthorne gets everything south of the Salmon River and the tribe gets everything to the north. Oh, there are some details beyond that, but in a nutshell, that's what happened.

This deal is good for Simplot. It's good for Boise. It's good for the beet growers. It provides water stability to the big irrigators in the upper Snake River drainage. And that is a big win.

It's good for Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene. It's good for Pocatello. It's good for Potlatch. It's good for Hewlett-Packard. It's good for Micron and ATK. As it does for the irrigators, the deal gives assurances for water for city jobs and businesses.

It's good for people who like to gamble. It's good for people who loan money to southern farmers. And when this deal is signed and sealed, the latter will be less of the former, but up north here, the agriculture game gets a little dicier.

It's good for people and communities who will benefit from a stronger tribe. If you thought tribal gambling was a locomotive before, for example, wait'll you get a load of it after this deal starts funneling money in. For people in the tourism trade in the Clearwater Valley, that steam engine might carry quite a load.

Who knows how this will turn out for fish? It seems a little wishy. But even the negotiators can't predict how it's all going to sort out on fish and game. Too much is dependent on the climate.

But one thing is sure. It's going to be bad for the Indian fighters in north central and northern Idaho who would have preferred a court fight. Kempthorne sold them down the river to save what he couldn't risk, the settlers in the upper Snake. Good.

This was a smart deal, but it wasn't good for everybody. All this win-win-win talk is Pollyanna. Everybody at the table made cold rational decisions about what was most important. Money, fish, regional control and consumptive water to the tribes. Guaranteed water in the upper Snake beet and potato fields for the governor. The thing is, some folks weren't at the table.

Minimum flows for fish. Assured irrigation in the south. Water for cities. Are we missing anybody?

Patrick McGann
Guess Who Wins, Loses in State-Tribe Water Deal
Lewiston Tribune, May 23, 2004

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation