March 31, 1998 in City

Three Sovereigns Plan Targets Basin Woes With Salmon Stocks At Risk, Dozens Of Agencies Are Trying To Gather At A Single Table

Associated Press

With salmon stocks of the Columbia River Basin at stake, dozens of state, federal and tribal government agencies are trying to gather at a single table to resolve disputes.

If the region cannot act as one, federal judges could end up deciding wildlife and power-generation issues facing the basin, said Mike Kreidler, a former congressman who represents Washington state on the Northwest Power Planning Council.

“The principal motivator here is that each (party) has something they could lose … especially if they leave it to the courts to resolve,” Kreidler said Monday from Washington, D.C.

“That is the cloud that hangs over (the region) and may help to motivate people to work (together) in a way they have not in the past.”

Kreidler and several others, representing state, federal and Indian interests, introduced the Three Sovereigns Fish and Wildlife Governance Process during a telephone news conference.

It is an effort to create a new forum in which the federal government, the Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and 13 tribes - the “three sovereigns” - could coordinate and resolve fish and wildlife issues using existing laws.

Roy Sampsel, who was hired to help put together the Three Sovereigns program over the past year, said that while there are any number of governmental and tribal agencies involved in trying to find answers to Columbia Basin problems, there is no process where governors can meet and put all issues on the table for resolution.

In trying to solve that problem, the Three Sovereigns agreement would create two new government entities.

The first would be a high-level forum composed of the governors of the four states, a representative of the White House, and the chairmen of the 13 Columbia Basin tribes.

The second entity would be a committee composed of four state, four federal and four tribal representatives. It would work to coordinate studies, recovery programs and decisions affecting basin fish and wildlife on all levels, and promote public involvement.

The next order of business for the Three Sovereigns project is a 60-day public review. Two draft agreements will be introduced to the region at a series of public hearings beginning April 8 in Portland, Ore. Other hearings are scheduled for April 13 in Richland, April 20 in Boise, and April 23 in Spokane, with more planned.

Two versions of the draft agreement reached by tribal, state and federal negotiators have been released. A second version was required to include concerns from state of Idaho officials that the first version was overly broad in scope.

Drafters of the agreement say they particularly want the public’s comments concerning how topics would get onto the Three Sovereigns’ agenda, the development of fish and wildlife recovery plans, the scope of issues to be considered, how to resolve disputes, whether to require consensus or a vote of the parties involved, and whether a single party could hold up a topic from consideration.

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