Conference to Explore Tribal Water Rights

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

Conference to Explore Tribal Water Rights


Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

The ownership of river water from glacier to estuary will be the topic when about 50 lawyers converge at the Knight Law Center later this week.

Participants will plumb issues ranging from the resolution of century-old tribal water rights disputes to the recent global trend toward water commodification.

"There's a lot of talk in the United States about water banking, trading water rights and water marketing," said Adell Amos, director of the UO's Environmental and Natural Law Resources Law Program. "What would it mean if water was bought and sold on a commodities market? What would the implications of that be?"

The third annual Northwest Tribal Water Rights Conference at the law center next Thursday and Friday draws representatives from 14 tribes in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Water rights disputes affect everyone living and working in a river basin - farmers, fishermen, power generators, residents. But the question of who gets what amount of water almost always begins with the tribes, because their water rights are most often senior.

"It's important to get those resolved early on," Amos said.

The main speaker will be Michael Bogert, counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior

His speech is entitled "Sovereignty, Certainty and Opportunity: Secretary Kempthorne's Vision for Tribal Water Rights Settlements in the West."

Bogert will be a draw for people trying to divine the new Interior secretary's positions.

"It's an opportunity for the people in the Northwest to really hear from the person in the Department of the Interior who will be involved in much of the decision-making," Amos said.

The issue of tribal water rights is prominent in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California. …

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