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Dems On Dams

by Kevin Taylor
Pacific NW Inlander, April 28, 2010

Water runs through spillway gates of Lower Monumental Dam on the Lower Snake River in southeastern Washington. Increased spills benefit salmon. Ah, it used to be so simple in the Bush years.

Dams on the Snake River were considered part of the natural landscape. The near extinction of wild salmon was irrelevant as long as there was plenty of canned salmon in the grocery stores. And Republicans like Larry Craig, Idaho's senior U.S. Senator at the time, plotted tirelessly to gut any funding for salmon restoration.

Today, Idaho's Republican senators say they will at least consider talking about dam breaching to help find a way to preserve federally endangered salmon runs on the Snake.

Oregon is also open to broad discussion. It is Washington's two Democrats, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who have been unbending of late.

Conservationists have taken the unusual move this week of gently chiding the two in an open letter delivered this week. The letter never once raises the b-r-e-a-c-h word. It instead hails "new approaches" and "multiple-use options."

"We're asking them to give back a little bit of the ecosystem to where fish can have some natural, free-flowing areas... [and] to stop spending billions of dollars on these failed programs to try and take fry to the ocean in trucks," says Chris Kopczynski, of Kop Construction and one of nearly 60 signatories.

The letter -- signed by conservationists, by vintners in Walla Walla, and by writers, photographers and even a wheat farmer in Dusty, Wash. -- notes that tourism and recreational fisheries created by free-flowing sections of the Snake also have economic value that compare favorably to barging and hydro.

Lonnie Hutson, an outfitter in Deary, Idaho, says that until you see a healthy salmon river, "We don't realize that something's missing."

Kevin Taylor
Dems On Dams
Pacific NW Inlander, April 28, 2010

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