The Northwest Power Planning Council has given the tribe approval to build a $16 million salmon hatchery that will attempt to boost wild salmon runs listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Most hatcheries provide anglers with salmon lost because of dam construction and habitat loss. "The Nez Perce Tribe is committed to restoring salmon for the benefit of the tribe and the citizens of the Pacific Northwest," said Chairman Samuel N. Penney. The hatchery, approved May 17, was designed to produce fish that will return and spawn in the wild, rather than relying on the hatchery to produce each successive generation of fish. It was designed to produce juvenile salmon with wild characteristics. Fish would be raised in ponds that more naturally match wild habitat with a current, woody debris and perhaps even predator training. Hatcheries have come under fire as one of the causes of the decline of salmon and steelhead runs. Some biologists said hatchery-raised salmon compete with wild fish and sometimes reduce their genetic fitness by breeding with wild fish. The tribe answered the council's independent scientific review panel which recommended against funding, saying it failed to do its homework when it reviewed the proposal.
The tribe renewed its request that the state's water rights judge disqualify himself. It filed a motion May 17 asking 5th District Judge Barry Wood to walk away from presiding over additional tribal water right claims in the Snake River Basin Adjudication process. The case encompasses more than 150,000 water rights in 38 Idaho counties. In March Wood refused to disqualify himself and to set aside previous rulings in the face of alleged conflicts of interest. Last November, he rejected Nez Perce claims to most of the water in the Snake River. The tribe again asserts Wood and two family members have water rights claims in the adjudication, in direct conflict with tribal claims. Wood said his family claims had been decreed or were uncontested. The state argued that regardless of how the judge ruled, Nez Perce claims would not affect Wood's water rights. If the judge disqualified himself, it would be only on the appearance of impropriety, not any actual bias. In April Wood was reappointed to preside over the adjudication at the end of his current term June 30 until further court order. In 1998 the tribe filed 1,886 claims for half the natural flow of springs and fountains on former reservation lands ceded in a 1863 treaty.
Orofino legislators aired frustration over summer plans to increase flows from Dworshak Reservoir to help salmon migrations, taking a bite out of recreational trade. The state and tribe actually wanted the reservoir refilled to full pool by June 30 and maintained there through July, Bill Graham of the Department of Water Resources said. They also demanded the reservoir provide 200,000 acre-feet of water for fall chinook salmon migration, Graham said. There will not be a full pool at the reservoir by July 1. The state and tribe's proposal for granting a waiver involves conditions that would compromise the Dworshak fishery operation this summer, said Brian Brown, assistant fisheries service regional administrator. His agency recommended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers limit spill to the 110 percent standard, Brown said. State Rep. Chuck Cuddy told the Idaho Water Resource Board May 19 he (was) under the impression there was a proposal for the reservoir to be full between June 1 and July 31, but the National Marine Fisheries Service opted not to do that. "The issue this year is why the change in the management strategy." The reservoir on the Clearwater River will not be full at all this summer and that hurts recreation interests, Cuddy said.