May 20, 2004

Nez Perce Water Rights

After six years of negotiations, the state of Idaho, the federal government and the Nez Perce tribe have agreed to the framework of a settlement encompassing thousands of water rights claims the Nez Perce tribe had filed as part of the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

Marcia Franklin interviews representatives of several parties to the agreement, which must be approved by Congress, the Idaho legislature and the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee before March 31, 2005.

Among other elements, the agreement calls for the tribe to receive 50,000 acre feet of water a year from the Clearwater River. The United States government and the state of Idaho will also pay for a $50 million wildlife and habitat trust fund to be administered by the tribe. The state will also identify and administer minimum stream flows on streams of importance to the tribe.

In exchange, the tribe will drop more than 1,000 water claims, as well as claims to springs on private lands. It will also waive challenges of several timber sales.