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Commentaries and editorials

Candidates Oppose Snake Dam Breaching

by Dave Wilkins
Capital Press, October 20, 2006

Water group polls 202 state office-seekers

Candidates running for state office expressed strong opposition to Snake River dam breaching and increased flow augmentation, according to a survey conducted by Idaho's largest water group.

The Idaho Water Users Association sent surveys to 202 candidates listed on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. The survey asked candidates where they stood on 10 key water issues. Eighty-two responded, for a 41 percent response rate.

"What's clear from the survey is that on the most visible issues candidates have some firm opinions," IWUA Executive Director Norm Semanko said.

The surveys were sent out to all candidates for statewide office, including the state Legislature, governor and two U.S. House seat races.

Semanko said it was important for the association to know where most candidates stood on the issues in general, even though the group doesn't endorse individual candidates.

Nearly eight out of 10 candidates said they oppose dam breaching as part of salmon recovery efforts, and an even stronger majority - 88 percent - said they oppose increased flow augmentation.

The results show that most candidates don't buy the argument promoted by some environmental groups that either dam breaching or increased flow augmentation is necessary for salmon recovery, Semanko said.

"The level of opposition to both dam removal and flow augmentation remained very high, which tells me that people don't view it as an either/or proposition," he said.

The water users' group believes that neither dam breaching nor flow augmentation is necessary.

"The candidate survey clearly indicates that most of those responding hold beliefs similar to those of the IWUA membership," Semanko said.

A firm majority of respondents - 87 percent - said they would support the development of additional water storage projects such as reservoirs.

"It shows a recognition that there are growing and competing demands for water," Semanko said.

Eighty percent of the candidates who responded said they support allocations under Idaho's "first in time, first in right" laws rather than water going for the "highest and best" use.

More than half (55 percent) said they would support management of surface and ground water as a single resource under the Prior Appropriation Doctrine. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) said they would oppose such management and almost as many (21 percent) had no position.

Some candidates indicated that they needed more information in order to respond to some questions, and Semanko said the results of the survey made it clear that the association "must continue to provide information and education to our political leaders."


IDAHO WATER USERS ASSOCIATION
2006 GENERAL ELECTION CANDIDATE SURVEY RESULTS

  1. Would you support or oppose breaching of the four lower Snake River dams as part of endangered species salmon recovery efforts?
    10% Support - 78% Oppose - 12% No Position

  2. For 14 years, Idaho has allowed up to 427,000 acre-feet of storage water to be used by the federal government for salmon recovery flow augmentation efforts. Would you support or oppose an increase in that amount?
    2% Support - 88% Oppose - 10% No Position

  3. Do you support or oppose management of ground and surface water as a single resource under the Prior Appropriation Doctrine?
    55% Support - 24% Oppose - 21% No Position

  4. Do you support or oppose water rights being made available for the "highest and best" use instead of under Idaho’s "first in time, first in right" laws?
    11% Support - 80% Oppose - 9% No Position

  5. Would you support or oppose development of additional water storage projects such as reservoirs?
    87% Support - 5% Oppose - 9% No Position

  6. Would you support or oppose treatment of canals and drains as "waters of the U.S." under the Clean Water Act?
    9% Support - 76% Oppose - 16% No Position

  7. Do you support or oppose additional restrictions being placed on the burning of weeds in and around canals and ditches?
    2% Support - 84% Oppose - 13% No Position

  8. Do you support or oppose the continued use of pesticides to control weeds in and around canals and ditches?
    72% Support - 18% Oppose - 10% No Position

  9. Would you support or oppose minimum stream flows?
    30% Support - 43% Oppose - 27% No Position

  10. Would you support or oppose legislative efforts to designate more Idaho rivers as protected and no longer available for development?
    17% Support - 67% Oppose - 16% No Position


Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Candidates Oppose Snake Dam Breaching
Capital Press, October 20, 2006

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