the film
Commentaries and editorials

Despite Doc's Anxiety,
Snake River Dams Likely to Stay

by Editorial Board
Yakima Herald, September 18, 2009

We have never pictured our 4th District congressman as a pit bull, but that may change.

Rep. Doc Hastings' reaction to this week's announcement that the U.S. government may consider breaching one or more of the dams on the Snake River to preserve endangered fish runs was nothing short of a pit bull in action, with a hint of bared teeth and a dose of angry threats.

"The Obama administration's resurrection of dam removal has likely doomed the Northwest to years and years of fighting off attacks on our dams," Hastings said following Tuesday's release of a revised federal plan to protect the Columbia Basin's 13 protected runs of salmon and steelhead.

"It is such a sad, terrible waste that this battle is being reignited, but let there be no doubt that we'll fight to save our dams in every way we can. These dams are here to stay," Hastings said.

What the Obama administration has proposed is a revised version of a plan that President George W. Bush had in place but was later rejected by a federal judge. This revised approach still embraces improvement of river flows and habitat for fish in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho, as well as the barging of young fish around the dams as they head out to the ocean.

But this time, dam removal is mentioned. While Obama's plan does not directly call for removal of the four Snake River dams, it does restore a Clinton-era provision that was dropped by the Bush administration and would only be considered in the event that fish runs edge closer to extinction.

The new plan now heads to U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland. He has rejected two previous plans and will have to decide if this new approach passes muster under the Endangered Species Act. The matter has come before his court because of a lawsuit filed by the Nez Perce tribe, the state of Oregon and a coalition of salmon groups.

Much is at stake. Electricity ratepayers in the Northwest have paid dearly for protecting the dwindling runs of salmon and steelhead -- roughly $750 million annually.

What we find even more curious in Hastings' "drawing the line in the sand" pledge is the apparent nod of support he has received from a most unlikely group: environmentalists. It's rare indeed that the eight-term Pasco Republican finds himself chummy with tree-huggers and salmon-recovery groups, but he has. It turns out a number of environmental groups hate the administration's plan as much as Hastings does.

And they certainly don't think the Snake River dams will be removed.

"I'm not sure Mr. Hastings should worry himself so much," Nicole Cordan, attorney for Save Our Wild Salmon, told the Oregonian.

Ditto for the Nez Perce tribe. They think any talk of removing the dams is "an illusion."

While it's encouraging to see our congressman exercised about a cause, he might want to save his energy for issues more likely to need urgent attention -- like immigration and health care reforms. Removal of the Snake River dams seems to be a mere pawn in a game that regrettably has no apparent end in sight.

Related Pages
YouTube link Congressman Doc Hastings formally questions NOAA's Lubchenco.

Editorial Board members are Michael Shepard, Bob Crider, Spencer Hatton and Karen Troianello.
Despite Doc's Anxiety, Snake River Dams Likely to Stay
Yakima Herald, September 18, 2009

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation