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Commentaries and editorials

Bush Keeps Solid Policy in Place
for Dams and Fish

by Editors
Editorial, Times-News, August 27, 2003

Listening to President Bush cite the rising numbers of returning salmon in Northwest rivers, you can just imagine the intense fury boiling in the minds of environmentalists.

Bush's boasting may be a bit much, but the president is right in saying dam breaching won't happen anytime soon - if ever. The Northwest has too much to lose economically by taking down four dams on the Snake River. A balance between energy needs and boosting salmon numbers continues to be the best strategy.

Standing on Washington's Ice Harbor Lock and Dam last weekend, Bush praised his administration's effort to maintain electricity supplies while continuing to boost salmon recovery. Bush said the record-breakiing wave of salmon returning upstream was a direct result of ongoing recovery efforts that include fish ladder systems and hatchery improvements.

Bush's visit to the Northwest capped another week in the continuing debate over dam breaching. The contrasting views were there for all to see.

The current round started with former Democratic Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's comments at a Ketchum fund-raiser, sayiing dams must come down now.

That sparked a rebuttal from Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig.

The nation's latest electricity crisis, Craig said, solidifies Congress' case for keeping dams in the Northwest. Craig added that scientific studies show dam breaching won't assure revival of salmon runs in the region. Craig said ocean patterns, sea lion populations and water salinity all have an impact on returning fish numbers.

Everyone knows habitat is important to fish and wildlife. But creating a river unfettered by dams would significantly damage the lives of Northwest residents.

It is estimated that the four lower Snake River dams - Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite - provide 5 percent of the Northwest power supply. That's a significant amount, especially considering the power shortages regional economies still have to endure.

The growth of the Northwest has consistently been linked to its ready supply of clean and renewable ppower, product shipment capacity, and irrigation for the region's farms. Last month, a bipartisan group of governors from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana issued an agreement that the four dams remain vital to the Northwest economy, and that alternative recovery efforts should continue.

Even President Clinton understood the economic and political risk of breaching dams, which forced him to put a tight lid on Babbitt's agitation for dam removal.

Salmon recovery is a worhwhile goal, because the fish is an iconic figure in the Northwest. But those efforts must be balance with the effects on human populations in the region.

Times-News Editors
Bush Keeps Solid Policy in Place for Dams and Fish
The Times-News, August 27, 2003

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