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NESPELEM – The Colville Confederated Tribes has asked the state to start a general stream adjudication of the Columbia and Okanogan rivers to determine tribal water rights.

Colville Business Council Chairman Rodney Cawston said the tribe has been carefully considering available options to protect its water rights, and has determined to take “proactive steps to assure that the tribes’ waters are available for tribal uses.”

The adjudication request was made to the state Department of Ecology.

“The Colville tribes has a longstanding productive working relationship with the Department of Ecology,” Cawston said. “Over the years we have had an effective partnership on a number of matters related to natural resources.

“The tribes looks forward to working with Ecology, the federal government and our neighbors to determine the tribes’ water rights and bring certainty to water use and availability in the region.”

“We appreciate receiving the (tribe’s) petition seeking adjudication of water rights,” said Keeley Belva, spokeswoman for the department’s water resources program. “The timing is befitting because the 2019 Legislature authorized the Department of Ecology to conduct a statewide assessment of where to pursue the next water rights adjudication.

“We recognize that this is a significant step for the Colville tribes and welcome their ongoing engagement as we continue to work toward clarifying water rights across the state.”

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