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Reservation Water Dispute Gets Help

Opposition to the Nez Perce Tribe’s bid to gain oversight of surface water within the reservation boundaries has prompted federal, state and tribal officials to seek the help of a dispute resolution expert.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Decateur Reed is organizing a series of informal discussion groups to air concerns and explore options.

Earlier this year, local government officials in north central Idaho said they were wary about being regulated by a tribal government over which they have no control.

Tribal officials placed on hold their plans to ask the Environmental Protection Agency for permission to regulate the water quality standards on the reservation under the Federal Clean Water Act.

“Mr. Reed has the background and attitude to effect a thorough comprehension of the tribe’s plans and to facilitate a partnership in developing a process to address concerns and resolve potential disputes,” EPA officials wrote in a prepared statement.

Reed, a law student at Brigham Young University, is experienced in business and alternative dispute resolution.

Gov. Phil Batt has asked Congress to amend the Clean Water Act to require tribal water quality regulations to be coordinated with state rules.

The House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to issue regulations to resolve problems created by adjoining states and tribes adopting different water quality standards. Under the measure, the EPA’s regulations would factor in the effects on upstream and downstream discharges, economic impacts, current and historical uses and the quality of the waters.

The EPA’s decisions about tribal water quality regulations would be placed under the jurisdiction of federal district courts.