Lower Clearwater Exchange Project

The current system of irrigation for the patrons of LOID draws water from Craig Mountain. The system utilizes storage in Waha Lake and Soldier’s Meadow Reservoir, and conveys water through a gravity system to Mann Lake. The gravity conveyance system is primarily located on the Nez Perce Reservation. For a variety of reasons including, including but not limited to watershed water quality, canal conditions, climate change, and Endangered Species Act requirements, LOID system is rarely provided with the water supply it requires. Summer water rationing and restrictions have become routine. System operation has been the subject of litigation between the Nez Perce Tribe, NOAA Fisheries, and the Bureau of Reclamation regarding the hydrological effects of the LOP on ESA listed steelhead and it’s designated critical habitat in Sweetwater, Lapwai, and Webb Creeks.

In July 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was executed by LOID, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, Nez Perce County, and the City of Lewiston. Although the MOU is not a legally binding document, it does set forth the direction to solve the water quality, water quantity, reliability, habitat and federal-tribal trust issues of the current LOP system.

The LCEP group’s objective is to explore and pursue the potential of constructing an irrigation system to provide the following:

  • Creation of a reliable, quality water supply for the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District (LOID).
  • Permanent resolution of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues surrounding the Lewiston Orchards Project.
  • Permanent resolution of federal-tribal trust issues surrounding the Lewiston Orchards Project (LOP).

Currently, the signers of the MOU are completing an appraisal investigation to evaluate if there is an alternative that meets the objective of the group. The investigation is funded by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rural Water Supply Program to provide an analysis for water supply problems, needs and opportunities based primarily on existing data. After the appraisal investigation is complete and if a viable alternative is identified, this process may move forward with a more detailed feasibility report and Environmental Review (NEPA).

As part of the process, we are seeking participation and input from stakeholders. Given the potential ramifications of the investigation, active participation and input from a broad array of stakeholders will lead to a well reasoned and supportable alternative. Further, working with stakeholders at this early stage in the process provides an opportunity for all interested parties to understand the background and provide input into the decisions. We invite your participation and input in the decision making process as the appraisal investigation moves forward.

Lower Clearwater Project Appraisal Study
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