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Nez Perce Agreement

Minimum Stream Flows and the 2004 Snake River Water Rights Agreement

On May 15, 2004, Governor Dirk Kempthorne and Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Anthony Johnson announced an agreement to settle the Nez Perce water rights claims in the Snake River Basin.

The 2004 Snake River Water Rights Agreement resolved all of the issues related to the Nez Perce Tribe’s water right claims in the SRBA. In the Salmon and Clearwater basins, the primary goal of the settlement agreement provisions is to conserve and enhance fish habitat in order to address ESA concerns. There are three cornerstones to such efforts: the establishment of state minimum flows, the establishment of a voluntary forestry program with standards to improve fish habitat, and the establishment of voluntary programs by irrigators and other water users to improve instream flow.

The state and local water users are working with the federal agencies, tribes, and other stakeholders to advance the recovery of listed species through the development of conservation agreements under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In coordination with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, the state has begun early implementation of voluntary conservation measures that provide immediate benefits to ESA-listed fish and provide the foundation for implementation of long-range plans.

As a result of the 2004 Snake River Water Rights Agreement, IWRB holds minimum stream flow water rights on 205 streams that provide significant protection for steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. Most of the streams flow through federal public lands and have minimal use. However, 24 streams are in basins with substantial private ownership and significant private water use. The flows for those streams were established after consultation with local communities. Where the minimum stream flow water rights are higher than existing flows, IWRB works with water users on a voluntary basis to rent or otherwise acquire water to return to streams in accordance with state law.

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