State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008ID103B
Title: Developing Tools to Minimize Jurisdictional Barriers to Achievement of Fishery and Water Resoures Goals in Lapwai Creek, Idaho
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: First
Focus Categories: Law, Institutions, and Policy, Methods, Ecology
Keywords: Jurisdictional Barriers; Water Resources; Fisheries; Tribe
Principal Investigators: Kennedy, Brian; Cosens, Barbara
Federal Funds: $ 20,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 40,000
Abstract: Lapwai Creek watershed historically provided spawning/rearing habitat for anadromous and resident aquatic species including salmon, steelhead, pacific lamprey and redband trout. As a result of habitat change and water demands, only a remnant population of redband trout isolated above stream diversion structures and a small steelhead population remains from the native aquatic assemblage. Diversion of headwaters by the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District (LOID), sedimentation from land use changes and stream channelization during railroad and highway construction have degraded spawning and rearing habitat for these species. Efforts by the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT) to restore habitat in Lapwai Creek are ongoing, but intermingled jurisdictions within reservation boundaries and historical conflicts over tribal sovereignty impede cooperation and ultimately the effectiveness of restoration efforts within the watershed.

Lapwai Creek is designated critical habitat for steelhead and essential fish habitat for chinook and coho salmon. It is listed by the state of Idaho under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for failure to support cold-water biota and salmonid spawning. Physical obstacles to fisheries and water quality restoration include; reduction of viable aquatic habitat due to channelization, water quality degradation from septic systems and agricultural runoff, riparian habitat deterioration, and competing demands for limited stream flow. Management obstacles include a "checkerboard" ownership pattern of tribal and private land that results in multiple political jurisdictions and management agencies. Legal obstacles include ongoing litigation between NPT and LOID over water rights and local efforts to diminish tribal sovereignty. Political and social obstacles include: application of management goals across jurisdictional/demographic divides; poverty and access to resources; and resistance to tribal sovereignty. Finally, a major obstacle to achieving water resource goals in the watershed as a whole is the inability to integrate these disciplinary discussions and progress toward a multidisciplinary solution.

The University of Idaho's developing Water of the West (WoW) program is premised on the fact that contemporary water issues require integrative and collaborative approaches. The goal of this research project is to demonstrate effectiveness in progress towards achieving water resources goals in jurisdictionally complex watersheds including tribal lands through; 1) the application of ecological studies and assessments to improve management practices, 2) the development of an integrative multi-partner community initiative for guiding watershed conservation, and 3) the implementation of integrative incentive programs for strengthening collaboration.


This project is part of the Lapwai Creek Integrated Analysis of the University of Idaho's WoW program. A funded project by the Bureau of Reclamation allows us to address the relationships between water supply in Lapwai Creek watershed and aspects of juvenile O. mykiss foraging, energetics, growth and survival. We propose to expand the funded biophysical work to incorporate land-use impacts on aquatic habitats and to integrate political, legal and social collaborations into the scientific study in order to develop a comprehensive watershed conflict evaluation and assessment. Stakeholder collaboration is key to both project success and post-project implementation. Targeted jurisdictional stakeholders are the Nez Perce Tribe, Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District, two counties and several small cities. Agency stakeholders include two soil conservation districts, Idaho Fish and Game Dept., Idaho Dept. of Transportation, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The project will address these issues by:

  1. Conducting ecological studies and assessments to guide improvements in management practices;
  2. Identifying jurisdictional/legal barriers to achievement of water resources goals.
  3. Developing an integrative multi-partner community initiative for guiding watershed restoration;
  4. Developing integrative incentive programs for strengthening collaboration.
  5. Developing assessment/monitoring tools to provide feedback for collaborative decision-making.


  1. Assist stakeholders in developing a watershed governance structure to allow sovereigns to work across jurisdictional, political and cultural barriers to achieve water resources objectives in Lapwai Creek watershed.
  2. Determine minimally viable physical habitat requirements (e.g. temperature, flow and water quality) for restoration of native species in Lapwai Creek.
  3. Create an integrated physical and social GIS data framework to evaluate how limiting biological and physical characteristics in the system interact with jurisdictional boundaries.
  4. Develop an approach to ongoing assessment and update of the GIS data framework by stakeholders to allow cross-jurisdictional decision making to improve as information on the effects of past decisions is obtained.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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