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Commentaries and editorials

A Blip, Not a Trend

by Marty Trillhasse
Lewiston Tribune, July 16, 2021

Graphic: Wild Chinook runs to the Lower Snake River as counted at the highest dam in place at the time. (1961-2020)

DJEERS ... to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Dan Newhouse, both R-Wash.

They dispute Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s assertion that the region must choose: It can not have both dams and fish on the lower Snake River.

Why, then, did these two Washington Republicans tell half the story about salmon recovery?

They note spring chinook numbers at Lower Granite Dam are up about 27 percent. The year before showed a 55 percent gain. That amounts to about 29,634 fish.

"The latest data for the Snake River spring chinook returns are encouraging and demonstrate that we are making real strides with our current mitigation efforts," they wrote last month. "Despite radical environmental groups trying to paint a dire picture of extinction, spring chinook returns are trending in the right direction for the second year in a row, proving what we already know: Dams and salmon can -- and do -- coexist."

Here’s what McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse neglected to acknowledge:

Sorry, but a blip does not a trend make.

CCHEERS ... to Congressman Simpson.

He’s personally better off if his party takes control of the House next year. Rather sitting in the minority, he’d presumably regain a chairmanship within the powerful House Appropriations apparatus.

Yet, last week he conceded Democrats are his potential allies in trying to spare imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction while his fellow Republicans are not.

Addressing the Salmon and Orca Summit at Shelton, Wash., Simpson conceded the fate of his $33 billion package to breach the lower Snake River dams, help the region’s stakeholders adjust to the change and attempt to restore fish runs "would be very hard to pass in a Republican House, so I think this needs to be done in the next year. ... There’s a lot of work to do."

That statement has the virtue of being correct. Simpson needs the help of key Democrats -- including those in Washington, Oregon and the White House.

But forging an alliance with the other party in these hyperpartisan times is more than risky.

Already, the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee has issued a no-confidence vote in him. Simpson has drawn opposition during the Idaho GOP primary elections before. Another challenge next year seems almost inevitable.

Candor and nerve are admirable qualities. Just don’t expect to see them too often in today’s poisonous atmosphere.

Related Pages:
Pacific Northwest Tribes Call for Removal of Lower Snake River Dams at Salmon and Orca Summit by Andrew Kennard, Native News Online, 7/13/21
Officials Voice Varying Degrees of Support for Dam Breaching by Eric Barker, Idaho Press, 7/9/21
Improving Fish Numbers Take Pressure Off Dams by Editorial Board, Tri-City Herald, 6/23/21
Stay Out of My Backyard, Rep. Simpson, and I'll Stay Out of Yours by Rep. Dan Newhouse, Lewiston Tribune, 5/27/21

Marty Trillhasse, Editor
A Blip, Not a Trend
Lewiston Tribune, July 16, 2021

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