Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Washington,
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?
One of my top priorities in Congress is job creation and economic growth. I believe that Judge Redden's ruling is an unfortunate and unbalanced decision that will stifle commerce and cost jobs. We need to find a more balanced approach that preserves our environment while making sure that our river system is able to be used for transportation and recreation.
2. In your view, what are the merits of - or shortcomings within - the Bush recovery plan?
The administration's recovery plan helps promote fish recovery while still maintaining dams that are vital to our economy. The plan recognizes the success of any recovery effort will be based upon a plan that respects a citizen's right to use his or her property.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from 2000 to 2004, the number of all listed stocks in the Snake River increased. Last fall, almost 15,000 Snake River fall Chinook returned past the dams - over 300 percent more than the 3,600 that returned in 2000. Last year, for the fourth straight year, the number of Upper Columbia Steelhead that returned has been more than double the 7,796 that returned in 2000.
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?
Questions still exist as to the benefits and detriments of spills and they should be rigorously studied before any additional spills are undertaken. We should be retaining more fresh water, not less.
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?
We should further examine the impacts of using additional water spills before actions are taken to assist with fish migration. We are however becoming increasingly aware that some fish, particularly steelhead may not be returning to the ocean, but instead utilizing the deep pools behind the dam as a substitute for their journey and completion of their life cycle.
5. Should Congress eliminate funding for the Fish Passage Center?
Costs for fish mitigation continue to rise in the Northwest and new cost pressures require that the region look for ways to maximize efficiencies and minimize redundancies. I believe that the Fish Passage Center (FPS) is no longer necessary and that its functions overlap with similar efforts that take place at the University of Washington. Moving the FPC to University of Washington presents an opportunity to lower costs while achieving superior performance in salmon data collection and dissemination.
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?
I do not support the removal or breaching of dams. It is extremely important that we protect the economic interests of the Northwest. Barge transportation is necessary in order to move agriculture goods to the ports and to relieve congestion on our railroads and highways. The Snake River dams have a huge impact on our economy and are important for irrigation, flood control, and low cost renewable electricity. I support a multiple-use river system that balances the needs of species survival, recovery, transportation, and energy.
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?
I don't believe we need the collection of new data. Data exists as to the environmental, economic and social benefits of our river system. Data also exists on the impacts that could occur if the Snake River dams were breached. Data estimates that we would see an increase of 700,000 truck loads per day on our already aging transportation system. Transportation of goods and services would be less efficient and thus cost more. The impact on our environment would be increased pollution and construction of hard surface highways. We would become more reliant on fossil fuels at a time that our country is trying to minimize that reliance. We would also be forced to look at less-environmental, non-renewable forms of energy to replace our use of clean, renewable hydropower.
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?
Redden's ruling will cost jobs, stifle our economy and send a $67 million bill to ratepayers throughout the Northwest. We wouldn't let a judge dictate how we use our federal highway system and we shouldn't let one tell us how to use our river systems.
I hope that the federal agencies will challenge this ruling and that the Northwest delegation will come together to get these decisions out of the courts and back to the local communities.
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?
Many people in the region have done great work to save the salmon and should be recognized for their efforts to promote salmon recovery. At the same time, it is also important that we protect the economic interests of the region. I value wild salmon just as equally as I value the multiple uses of our river system and don't believe we have to choose one over the other.
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