Water users fighting tribes find a friend at Interior

Water users in California who are fighting tribal treaty rights have a close ally at the Interior Department in a top Bush administration appointee who used to work for them.

For 10 years, Jason Peltier was head of the Central Valley Project Water Users Association. Now he serves as deputy assistant secretary for water and science and is involved in matters that directly affect the financial interests of the users.

Peltier received special clearance from Interior's ethics office to take part in negotiations for new contracts with the association and related issues. The contracts would allow users to buy water at prices far below fair market value. Another pending decision would alleviate the association of having to pay up to $11.5 million a yea for an environmental restoration fund.

Separately, the Central Valley Project Water Users Association filed a lawsuit to challenge the Clinton administration's decision to restore flows in the Trinity River, hundreds of miles to the north. They claimed their water usage would be harmed by recognizing the treaty rights of tribes on the California-Oregon border.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge, citing "staggering" scientific evidence to support higher flows in order to benefit the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe, who have treaty rights to the water and treaty rights to fish.

Get the Story:
For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept. (The New York Times 3/3)

Decision in Orff v. US:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas]

Court Decision:

Relevant Links:
Hoopa Valley Tribe - http://www.hoopa-nsn.gov
Wetlands Water District - http://www.westlandswater.org/wwd/default2.asp
Northern California Power Agency - http://www.ncpa.com

Related Stories:
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Water finally being restored to the Trinity River (05/16)
California tribe wins round in testy water fight (01/24)
Judge dismisses lawsuit over Klamath fishkill (01/21)
Appeals court restores flows to Trinity River (07/14)
Appeals court orders release of water for tribe (04/27)
Hoopa Valley Tribe critical of DOI water offer (3/3)
Calif. tribe says water proposal won't help fish (01/23)
Calif. tribe, U.S. reject offer to setter water suit (10/21)
Calif. tribe criticizes water settlement offer (10/17)
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Tribes would receive $20M in Klamath aid (10/25)
Tribes protest Klamath water cut-off (10/14)
Water woes affect Calif. tribes (8/26)
Calif. tribes still waiting for water (8/22)
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