Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho,
by Idaho Statesman Questionnaire
1. Do you support U.S. District Judge James Redden's recent decision to overturn the Bush administration's biological opinion for salmon?
Should Congress try to invalidate Redden's ruling?
I doubt that is possible given the current makeup of the Senate.
2. In your view, what are the merits of - or shortcomings within - the Bush recovery plan?
The biop is not perfect, but it is a valid starting point that reflects the essence of regional consensus for addressing this issue. As that consensus continues to evolve, and state officials advance their priorities, I am confident the Bush administration's recovery agenda will similarly evolve.
3. In your view, what are the merits - or drawbacks - of spilling water from the lower Snake River dams and McNary Dam to aid fish migration?
Spill is an unproven and very likely detrimental strategy for helping fish migration, and it will cost ratepayers millions of dollars in unnecessary and counterproductive expense. In the end, all it accomplishes is further entrenching both sides of this debate.
4. Should additional water from Idaho be used to speed up the flow of water in the Columbia/Snake river system to aid fish migration, as some fish advocates have suggested? Why or why not?
No. There is no evidence that it will help, and a great deal of evidence that it will seriously damage Idaho's agricultural economy and inhibit the ability of communities and businesses to meet growing municipal and industrial needs.
5. Should Congress eliminate funding for the Fish Passage Center?
Yes, for the reasons enumerated by Senator Craig.
6. Most fisheries biologists say breaching the lower Snake River dams gives Idaho salmon their best - and possibly only - shot at recovery. Yet at this time, no prominent elected official in the Northwest advocates breaching. What are your concerns about breaching, and do you believe there is any way to mitigate those concerns?
Breaching is not a solution, and breaching advocates know it. They cling relentlessly to breaching precisely because they know it will never happen. Their goal is not to save the salmon, but keep the debate and its fund-raising potential for their organizations alive. Even former Gov. Cecil Andrus has advised advocates of breaching to drop their demands if they truly care about the future of Northwest salmon. We need to focus on solutions that are both effective and achievable economically and politically as well as scientifically.
7. During a recent congressional field hearing in Clarkston, Wash., Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., questioned why the region hasn't studied the economic impact of breaching the lower Snake River dams. Would you support such a study?
No. Such a study would unreasonably raise expectations about the reality of breaching and be an unnecessary expense. Various economic sectors already have weighed in with their assessments of the impact. Lending the imprimatur of an official study would do nothing to advance the issue.
8. Redden's most recent ruling also came with a call to action for Northwest elected officials, federal agencies, industry, tribes and fish advocates: negotiate a settlement to this issue. Can the Northwest realistically negotiate an agreement on salmon? Do you support an open and inclusive negotiation process where all options are on the table? What would be your personal role in brokering an agreement?
I believe it is indeed possible, and essential, for the region to find a reasonable consensus on this issue. It must not be left to the federal government to impose a "solution" that does not adequately consider all the social, economic and political consequences. The Endangered Species Act is not a law that exists in a vacuum.
Do you support an open and inclusive negotiation process where all option are on the table?
That implies that some groups or interests have been systematically excluded from the process as it now exists. That is not the case. I applaud the work of our region's governors to lead the discussion on this issue, and have confidence that locally driven efforts will bear fruit. Further, I do not and will not support breaching or release of more Idaho water as options to be considered in this process; they are recipes for continued stalemate.
What would be your personal role in brokering an agreement?
I will facilitate any discussions and offer any assistance consistent with the authority of my office. I will encourage consensus and collaboration at the state and regional level, and continue to discourage the idea that Congress or federal agencies are the keepers of all wisdom on this or any other issue.
9. The question of salmon recovery ultimately becomes a question of values: saving the fish vs. protecting interests such as hydropower production, irrigation and inland shipping. Where do you personally place the value of wild salmon recovery against these other interests?
I believe such values are not and must not be seen as mutually exclusive. A proper balance is possible. However, that must include the realization that men also are members of a species, entitled to lives and livelihoods that are not subordinated to the priorities of a failed law and appointed judges who take on the role of elected policymakers.
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