Nez Perce Tribe’s Water Rights Administration Code Approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior
Lapwai, Idaho – On December 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) approved the Nez Perce Tribal Water Rights Administration Code after completing its required review. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, contacted Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC) Chairman, Shannon Wheeler personally to relay this development. The Nez Perce Tribe’s (Tribe) Water Rights Administration Code provides for the Tribe’s use and protection of its water rights, including those confirmed through the Snake River Basin Adjudication.
Chairman Wheeler observed, “The Tribe’s Water Rights Administration Code ensures that the Tribe – not the Bureau of Indian Affairs—is responsible for administering the Tribe’s water rights. This approval has been a long time coming — we submitted our Code in 2018, and we met with the Department of the Interior Office of the Solicitor in September, 2019 as part of our Washington, DC delegation.”
The Tribe’s Water Rights Administration Code was adopted by NPTEC on December 31, 2019 by Nez Perce Resolution 20-117 following a 30-day tribal member comment period. The Interior’s required review focused on ensuring that the rights of Allottees, to the use of water in quantities necessary to carry out the purposes of a trust allotment, are secure.
The overarching purpose of the Code, set forth in section 3-3-2, is “[t]o provide an orderly system for the protection, allocation, regulation, dispute resolution, and use of Tribal water rights consistent with the needs of ecosystems, natural resources, and cultural resources.”
“As we look forward to a future in which water becomes even more valuable for all uses, this Code ensures that the Tribe will be responsible for making the decisions about the protection and use of its water rights,” concluded Chairman Wheeler. “We will be putting a team together to develop strategies, but we are confident this will be a great opportunity for the Tribal membership. This large step will allow us to further diversify our revenue streams and continue development for a healthy, and prosperous people.”