Bitter Debate Threatens Salmonby Editorial Board
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - May 20, 2003
The future of the Northwest is based on this region's abundant energy supply, low-cost renewable hydroelectricity from dams.
Or, the future of the Northwest is based on this region's once abundant natural resources, such as salmon and steelhead.
Two competing visions of this region's direction.
Sometimes, when we're fortunate, advocates for either direction find enough common ground to keep us moving forward together.
Then there are times -- like now -- when the harshness of the debate makes consensus seem impossible.
Earlier this month a federal judge said that dam removal ought to be considered because salmon restoration efforts have been too timid. The reasoning is clear: If the dams are to stay, then every effort, and enough money, has to be directed toward salmon recovery.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig says it's time to "rebalance" the debate about license renewals for the dams by concentrating on the issues that matter: power, irrigation, flood control and recreational uses. The problem, Craig says, is that environmental groups and tribes can go to court for relief seeking "stricter, more expensive conditions" than what federal regulations require.
Making the dams the only issue for salmon recovery won't bring about consensus -- it limits the debate to either dams or not.
But at the same time, pretending that significant money and resources are not important just makes the dam removal debate inevitable.
There ought to be room for fish and power. But that goes beyond one limited vision of the future.
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