State water at center of debate - Meeting will address needs of farmers, migrating salmon

Associated Press


BOISE, IDAHO-- Federal and state officials will meet behind closed doors today with environmentalists, tribal leaders and water users on options to provide adequate river flows for migrating fish without leaving eastern Idaho irrigators high and dry.

"These are going to be difficult negotiations, and no one should expect quick agreement," U.S. Sen. Michael Crapo said.

Crapo organized the talks at the Capitol to head off a courtroom confrontation over salmon strategy.

Environmental groups threatened legal action earlier this month to force the Bureau of Reclamation to draw additional water from eastern Idaho reservoirs to ensure sufficient migration flows for salmon.

Water users countered by threatening to pull out of long-running negotiations over new wilderness areas in the state.

"These issues are so critical to our state's future that we must make the effort," Crapo said. "I am encouraged both sides have agreed to come to the negotiating table so we can identify our common ground."

Environmentalists have argued that if the lower Snake River dams aren't breached to save the fish, then more water must be made available from the upper Snake area to improve flows. That water is heavily allocated to irrigation, almost exclusively so in drought years.


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