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Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho

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The state and the tribe are willing to consider issuing the government a long-term variance on dissolved-gas standards at Dworshak Dam on the Clearwater River. But such permission would have to address their desire for an altered schedule on releasing water to help young fall chinook migrating toward the ocean. When large amounts of water are released from the dam to aid juvenile salmon migration, it often causes the lower Clearwater to exceed state standards for dissolved gas, which harms the fish like the "bends" on divers. The federal salmon strategy uses Dworshak water each summer to aid chinook migration and control temperatures in the Snake River. Last year, the state and tribe issued a conditional waiver for the gas standards that was rejected by the National Marine Fisheries Service. They issued another this year that requires the reservoir to remain at full pool through July and would give them veto authority on water releases.

The federal government seeks multiyear waivers for dam spills from Northwestern states and the tribe as part of a water quality plan now under development. "We are hopeful this multiyear variance issue will provide benefits to both sides," said Scott Turlington, a natural resource adviser to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. "This is promising."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is shelving plans to reintroduce grizzly bears along the Montana-Idaho border. Instead the agency intends to "concentrate efforts and resources" on strengthening existing grizzly populations throughout the lower 48 states, it was announced June20. Management of the animals was to be the responsibility of citizens appointed by the tribe and the governors of Idaho and Montana. Five grizzlies would have been released every year for five years into the Bitterroot Mountains of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the border. Releases were to begin next year. "The grizzlies deserve the best opportunities for their populations to thrive and prosper and I am fully committed to the recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in a news release. "Building support from state leaders is an important element to any potential partnership of this size and scope." In January, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne sued to stop the program, accusing the Clinton administration of trying to force "massive flesh-eating carnivores" on his state. Sterling Miller, a biologist with the National Wildlife Federation, called the agency decision a "complete cave in."