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Crapo Tests Waters for Salmon Talks

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, August 26, 2009

U.S. senator comes to Lewiston to visit with local folks who seek voice in discussions

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, met with a group of businessmen and port officials in Lewiston Tuesday to talk about possible regionwide collaborative talks on Snake and Columbia river salmon recovery.

While in the area, Crapo met with University of Idaho President Duane Nellis and visited Moscow's Camas Prairie Winery to see the solar power improvements that provide a quarter of the facility's power needs. He also toured Gritman Medical Center's new Community Wellness Center and congratulated members of the Latah County Youth Advocacy Council for their work on substance abuse prevention.

On the salmon front, Crapo said earlier this summer he would like to convene collaborative talks to attempt to solve the complicated and controversial issues surrounding salmon recovery and the operation of federal dams on the Snake and Columbia river system. The senior senator from Idaho said all issues, including dam breaching, should be discussed at the talks.

A group of Lewiston business leaders sent a letter to Crapo and U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, last month asking to have a seat at the table if talks occur. Crapo met with representatives of the group in his Lewiston office to tell them his thoughts on collaboration, a model of natural resource conflict resolution he supports and has used successfully in the past.

He said without collaboration, decisions are made by federal agencies or federal judges and the outcomes are often not as good for the economy or the environment as they could be.

"If you truly collaborate, these are decisions that are better for everybody," he said.

Don Bott, of Bott & Associates, an architectural firm in Lewiston, said the concerns of people in Lewiston are often lost when people and communities on the more densely populated west side of the Cascades weigh in on the issue.

"We simply think the businessmen in the valley have a stake and it would be nice to be acknowledged."

Mike Kingsley, of Kings Services in Lewiston, said he thinks the dams should stay and that the business climate in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley would be helped by bringing certainty to the salmon recovery and dam issue.

"It's hard to plan when there is always this cloud (of uncertainty)," he said. "What we would like to see is some settlement or resolution."

The direction salmon recovery might take is anything but certain at the moment. The Obama administration is reviewing a salmon and dam plan written by the Bush administration that is challenged in court. Federal Judge James Redden is poised to decide whether the plan jibes with the Endangered Species Act. Redden has strongly hinted he may overturn the plan and said he would like it to include a provision to breach the lower Snake River dams if all other salmon recovery measures fail.

Dave Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston, met privately with Crapo and also attended the meeting with the letter writers. He said it makes sense for the port and other Lewiston interests to be at the table if collaboration occurs.

"I think it's a process the community would want to be involved in, seeing as how we are going to have one of the biggest impacts of what the implication of that decision would be."

Crapo said collaborative talks can't be conducted until the legal process runs its course. Crapo has been traveling the state during the congressional recess and met with several groups involved in the salmon and dams issue.

Crapo recognized Prevention Coordinator Gail Silkwood, Youth Ambassador Andrew Charles and the Latah County Youth Advocacy Council for their work securing a $98,856 substance abuse prevention grant. The money is the final installment of a five-year grant program that has contributed to a 15 percent to 25 percent decline in substance use among area school children over the last five years.

Crapo also toured Gritman Medical's new wellness center. Work on the $8 million, multi-year project began last year. The first phase, including a therapy pool and locker rooms, should be completed early next year. CEO Jeff Martin said it will be followed by an adult "day health" area to provide rehabilitation services to the frail and elderly, and a child care center for developmentally delayed children. The overall project should be completed within two to four years. It will be paid for through a combination of federal funds, contributions from Gritman Medical, and community fundraisers.

Eric Barker
Crapo Tests Waters for Salmon Talks
Lewiston Tribune, August 26, 2009

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