Senate Passes Tribe's Water Rights Claimby Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, November 20, 2004
Bill written by Sens. Larry Craig, Mike Crapo
must still go through House, make it past president
The proposed settlement of the Nez Perce Tribe's water rights claims passed a significant hurdle late Friday night with approval of a U.S. Senate bill that codifies many of its terms. However, the settlement still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before its journey through Congress is complete.
The Snake River Water Rights Act of 2004 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and passed by unanimous consent. The bill was written by Craig and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Craig said Idaho Republican Congressmen Mike Simpson and C.L. (Butch) Otter have added similar legislation to an omnibus appropriations bill. The House is expected to adjourn for the holidays this weekend.
"We have a high degree of confidence this bill will become law in coming days," said Craig.
If that were to happen, the proposed settlement would be one-third of its way to completion. After the president signs the bill, the agreement also needs to be approved by the Idaho Legislature and the Nez Perce Tribe. Craig said the bill that passed the Senate Friday authorizes federal funding for the $193-million settlement and also authorizes land transfers outlined by the proposed settlement.
"When this bill is signed into law, the Idaho State Legislature will have the responsibility of determining whether this agreement should be executed," Craig said.
According to the terms of the proposed settlement, the tribe would give up most of its water right claims in the Snake River Basin in exchange for state-held, salmon-friendly, minimum stream flows, flow augmentation from the Upper Snake River Basin, $11 million worth of land and about $90 million that could be used for salmon habitat, tribal infrastructure and other uses.
If approved, irrigators in the Upper Snake River Basin and some loggers and landowners in the Clearwater and Salmon river basins would be protected from endangered species-based lawsuits.
The tribe claimed a water right on most of the flows in the Snake River Basin based on reserved fishing rights in its treaties.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs