Idaho Senate Finalizes Water Deal with Tribe

The Idaho state Legislature yesterday ratified a historic agreement between the federal government, the Nez Perce Indian Tribe and the state's water users, setting water policy in Idaho for the next 30 years.

As a result of the agreement, the tribe will drop its claim to nearly all water in the Snake River Basin. In exchange, it will receive annual rights to 50,000 acre-feet of water in the Clearwater River plus $80 million in cash and land, as well as a pledge from state and federal governments to provide tens of millions of dollars for fish habitat and other environmental improvements.

"The Legislature's approval of these three pieces of legislation gives us the tools we need to protect Idaho's sovereignty over its water," Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said in a statement issued after the Senate approved it 27-7 Wednesday.

The state House and Congress approved the agreement previously. After Kempthorne signs the bill, the agreement will be sent to the tribe for final approval.

The Associated Press

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