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Seattle makes deal with Muckleshoots over Cedar River
Seattle Times staff reporter
The city of Seattle has agreed to limit its future use of water from the Cedar River, to turn over 1,200 acres of land to the Muckleshoot Tribe and to let tribal members hunt in small groups near the river's headwaters.
To resolve a years-long dispute over hunting rights and protection of fish on the river, which supplies Seattle with drinking water, the city also has agreed to pay the tribe $18 million for wildlife research in the watershed and to renew its efforts to build a sockeye-salmon hatchery.
The agreement settles a lawsuit the tribe filed in 2003 over the city's right to divert up to 350 million gallons of water a day from the river. The city now uses only about 100 million gallons a day, but the tribe feared the city might use a lot more in the future.
Under the agreement, the city has committed to not take more than 124 million gallons a day from the river — even decades from now, said Martin Baker, a policy adviser for Seattle Public Utilities.
The city uses less water than it did 20 years ago, even though the city has grown, Baker said. So the city doesn't think it will need more water in the future.
And King County suburbs, which get most of their water from the city of Seattle, have formed an alliance to obtain their water from other sources, such as Lake Tapps or a pipeline from Tacoma.
The negotiations also allowed the city and the Muckleshoot Tribe to resolve other long-standing issues, including the tribe's demands for traditional hunting rights and reparations for damage to the river as a result of hydropower production.
Until now, the city had barred the tribe from accessing what was traditionally Muckleshoot land, saying it needed to protect the watershed.
Under the agreement, tribal members will be allowed to hunt there in groups of fewer than 20 with advance notice. But they can't use snowmobiles or off-road vehicles, and they will have to keep dead animals away from water supplies.
The city also plans to deed at least three parcels of land to the tribe: two near the Green River, and one sacred site high in the Cedar River watershed. Tribal officials said the land will allow tribal members more access for picking berries and gathering firewood.
The City Council is expected to take up the issue in May.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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