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Senator Crapo Breaches the Dam Issue

by Blog
Idaho's Democrats, June 2, 2009

The Idaho Statesman recently reported that Senator Crapo is open to dam breaching discussions. Crapo spoke in Boise last week at the Northwest Energy Coalition's meeting. Idaho's senior senator suggested to the group of responsible energy advocates that they set aside litigation efforts and try a collaborative approach in order to resolve the debate over salmon, energy and water.

It was an honest effort on Crapo's part. However the timing of the request seemed to be in desperation. The fact of the matter is - if politicians, the BPA, dam and barging interests would have been open to discussions years ago a collaborative effort may very well have already lead to a solution. Since then, Salmon advocates (having not been well led), sportsman and commercial fishing interests (unable to organize effectively) have left themselves with not enough cards to play in this politically fueled debate. Thus leaving salmon, California to Alaska commercial fishing interests, the sport fishing industry, sportsman, agriculture, energy, transportation, the mining industry, the timber industry and Idaho's precious water resource in the courtroom.

Past and present political leaders have failed to educate Idahoans about the true facts surrounding the issue - 1) what is really at stake for Idaho and 2) how the process of Washington State dam removal would affect Idaho. Instead of taking this important issue on, regional politicians have for too long hid behind Larry Craig. Senator Craig could not make this issue go away, even with his years of political experience. Craig's stalemate on salmon recovery in conjunction with his adamant protection of out of Idaho downstream interests did nothing but make the problem worse. Without a well informed public, zealots like Semanko and Craig have been able to distort the issue in order to reap political and personal gain. Without leadership and because of political positioning and distortions of truth, Idaho has been for over 30 years the biggest loser.

Idaho has lost thousands of acre feet of water, dried up farm ground, lost recreational opportunities, fish, millions of dollars and most importantly time. Idahoans love their outdoor recreational opportunities as much as their water. Water and fish equate to money, Idaho's economies based on water and recreation are a major factor in the economic health of our great state.

The good news is that political vibrations seem to be changing.

But for Crapo to ask salmon advocates to put down litigation this far down the path is sort of liking asking for a re-deal in the middle of a poker game. A re-deal simply isn't going to happen at this point. Salmon advocates are not going to give up their cards now that they are seemingly gaining ground for what could possibly be nothing more than idle talk. Since the beginning, anti-salmon recovery interests and the BPA have been holding all the cards - maybe they've dealt salmon a pair of twos in this poker match. Facing extinction and broken fishing economies, salmon advocates have been forced to rely on flow augmentation and litigation. Now that the game seems to be changing, salmon may have at least a pair of tens (politically and in courtroom with the other side not even knowing what their cards are) of course others are interested in a collaborative effort. Crapo is smart. He knows that there is a solution and he like all politicians is beholden to certain set of interests and political ideologies. Crapo knows what he is asking for and like a good poker player he is prepared for an answer either way.

Idaho doesn't need more poker. Salmon don't have time for it and the regional economy doesn't need the uncertainty. Idaho needs leadership.

Leadership would bring economic certainty to the region. Certainty for salmon would mean recovery to natural self-sustaining fishable numbers. Certainty would relieve pressure on agriculture, mining and logging interests. Certainty would mean no longer giving Idaho water away to down stream interests and finally an end to wasting time and money in the court room.

Whoever the political figure will be bringing resolve to this overly divisive debate will be Idaho's next political icon for decades to come.

Senator Crapo Breaches the Dam Issue
Idaho's Democrats, June 2, 2009

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