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Crapo: Breaching is on the Table

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, May 30, 2009

Idaho's senior senator says all options must be represented in collaborative effort to settle salmon vs. dams debate

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, called for a regional collaborative effort Friday aimed at solving the debate over Snake River salmon and dams and said dam breaching should be on the table during any such talks.

Crapo opposes dam removal, but his call makes him the first high-ranking Idaho politician to say breaching should be part of the discussion on the best way to recover threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

"In collaboration all options have to be on the table, all interest groups must be represented fairly and everyone must come to the table with a willingness to participate. Does that mean dam breaching has to be on the table? - Yes. But understand that also means not dam breaching must be on the table. All options must be openly and fairly discussed."

Idaho's senior senator made his comments at a Northwest Energy Coalition conference in Boise and challenged attendees to participate in a regionwide salmon and dams collaborative process.

"I am willing to lead such a collaborative effort and share with you the risk of taking that step, but we need to take it with confidence and willingness and patience to work through the issues."

Crapo has latched on to collaboration as the best way to achieve effective and lasting solutions to tough natural resource issues. He led a collaborative process that recently resulted in the establishment of a wilderness designation in Owyhee County while giving assurances to cattle ranchers there. The senator is leading another effort in the Clearwater Basin where environmentalists and the timber industry have been fighting for decades about the best way to manage the Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests.

He said the process that brings diverse interests around a single table to work through differences can provide better solutions than those available through litigation or legislation where there is typically winners and losers.

The latest front in the battle of salmon and dams rests in the hands of federal Judge James Redden, who is poised to decide if the federal government's newest Snake and Columbia river salmon plan is legal. The Obama administration recently asked Redden to delay his ruling while it reviews the plan written by the Bush administration. Crapo said if all sides don't agree to collaborative talks and instead seek other solutions, the fight will continue indefinitely.

Freshman Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, also called for regionwide talks on salmon and dams.

"I'm very confident if the invitation to collaboration is something that gets momentum he (Risch) and I will work together on that. Sen. Risch is very involved in developing a collaborative effort on salmon," Crapo said.

Some environmentalists at the conference immediately welcomed Crapo's invitation and said they would be willing to participate. Dustin Aherin of Lewiston and the leader of Citizens for Progress said collaboration could give Lewiston and Clarkston a larger role in shaping a solution that is good for the local economy.

"It gives us the ability to be involved in the issues and any sort of settlement discussions," he said.

Pat Ford of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition said the court case will continue to run its course but collaboration can address a number of issues not before the court.

"Settlement talks can certainly be an outcome of the court process and an outcome outside of court or some combination of the two."

Eric Barker
Crapo: Breaching is on the Table
Lewiston Tribune, May 30, 2009

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