Clearwater County Commissioners
by Kathy Hedberg
In letter, three-person board expresses its 'outrage' over Simpson's dam-breaching proposal
The Clearwater County commissioners joined their counterparts in Idaho County on Monday by expressing "outrage" at Congressman Mike Simpson's proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams.
In a letter to Simpson signed by the three commissioners, Chairman Rick Winkel, Mike Ryan and Vince Frazier, the board said it was caught off guard by Simpson's proposed $33 billion salmon recovery plan.
"We cannot express our objection and outrage strongly enough as well as the outrage of our constituents," the commissioners wrote.
The four lower dams are the lifeblood of the region's agriculture-based economy, the commissioners said.
"For Clearwater County residents this means primarily timber and timber products ... and field crops such as wheat and barley. The Snake River transportation corridor, the four locks on the lower Snake River that allow the barges and other vessels to move up and down the river between Lewiston and (the) coast is necessary and vital for these industries to remain competitive and viable."
The commissioners pointed out the demand for electricity in north central Idaho and eastern Washington continues to grow. "The dams' energy production cannot be ignored; exactly how do you propose replacing the renewable clean energy created by the turbines in the dams you propose to remove? The wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine but the river always flows."
The commissioners said in years past "the waters of north Idaho have been sold for political positioning. For example, water flow in the Clearwater (River) was traded in exchange for certain entities removing their claims to water flow on the Snake River. Water levels in Dworshak Reservoir are hijacked every year starting on the 8th of July to support temperature control and water flow for salmon and steelhead smolts downriver. The effect of this drawdown on the recreational economy of Clearwater County cannot be measured.
"We do not find it amusing whatsoever when our livelihoods are traded away to support some other agenda in DC or southern Idaho. This has been going on for too long and quite frankly must end."
Last week the Idaho County commission sent a similar letter to Simpson rejecting the proposal.
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