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Commentaries and editorials

Idaho's Voices

at Boise Caucus Hearing
The Idaho Statesman, February 24, 2000

What people testifying had to say about salmon

  • Horace Axtell, Nez Perce Tribe
    "The Salmon are so important to our way of life. Each time salmon come up the river, they give up their life so that there can be more salmon reproduced. ... That's the only thing they know how to do. Now when things are built to block the road for the travel, it's hard for them to come up the river. When the salmon come up the river now, they're probably endangered coming up extinct. They have a hard time. In order to come up the river, they must have a free-flowing river. One that is clean, one that flows fresh water. Not dirty water like it is now."

  • Scott Bosse, Idaho Rivers United
    "We've tried barging as a primary recovery strategy. It hasn't worked. It's failed. It's time to let that one die. ... Asking a fish to survive in a barge is like asking a human to spend their life on the top of Mount Everest without oxygen. Poiticians and bureaucrats are exremely fond of saying there is no silver bullet. I don't know how many times we've heard that today. I say any recovery plan that does not involve dam breaching and restoring normative river habitats is like shooting blanks."

  • David Whitacre, Boise
    "These dams are not sacred monuments. They're tools. It makes sense to breach them. ... After 30 years and $3 billion spent, we have nothing to show for our efforts except decling numbers. The best science tells us these four dams are limiting recovery. These dams need to be breached."

  • Sara Denniston, Boise
    These dams provide replaceable economic benefits to a small number of people at the expense of wild salmon and steelhead. These fish are a national treasure and a great symbol of the Northwest.

    In addition, recovering these fish would provide a huge economic boost for the state of Idaho. Saving the salmon and steelhead is an economic, environmental and moral necessity. Yet $3 billion worth of recovery efforts has done little to halt the loss of these fish. It's time to try something new. I would urge you to do what's right for people and fish and breach the four lower Snake dams."

  • Theresa Floyd, President, Boise Valley Fly Fishermen
    "The Boise Valley Fly Fishermen have been strong advocates for the fast and most efficient method of restoring our wild salmon and steelhead in Idaho. Our members and our families feel strongly the only option that accomplishes both is the partial removal of the four lower Snake River dams. We are an organization of fishing families that not only cars about salmon but about our north Idaho friends who may be affected by our dam breaching decision. We favor a full investment package for thos affected by breaching."

  • Ted Cochell, Boise
    "These dams have been putting people in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon out of business quietly for the last 40 years, while we tried our failed methods of salmon recovery. The time to act is now. Scientific studies are complete. Breaching the dams offers the only chance for meaningful salmon recovery."

  • Gene Bray, Meridian (dressed as Capt. William Clark)
    "Returning to these waters after 195 years, I am overcome with despair to find the Columbia and Snake River salmon nearly eradicated by the nation I so proudly served. You have taken from these lands and rivers in every manner possible. Your dams sever the arteries that bring sustenance and life for the rivers, the streams, the giant white pine and all of the animals and plants that formerly thrived here. Can you not give back in some small measure undere these dire circumstances?"

  • Lilisa Moses, Nez Perce Tribe
    "I caught my first steelhead when I was 4 years old. I said, "I don't know if I can pull this in," yelling for my dad: "Help I can't do this." All he did was grab the camera and tell me I could do it. My cousings kept trying to take the fishing pole from me but my dad wouldn't let them do it. He wanted me to pull my first steelhead in. I did it and I'm proud of it and I know he is too. I want this to live on. I want my unborn children to go throught what I had. These memories should be lived by each generation down the line. Fishing together helps unite family members, strengthening relationships."

  • Phil Brown, Lewiston
    "As a teenager, I strongly recall my parents and my parents' friends going to meetings such as this, hearings such as this, discussing building dams. We didn't want dams. We got them anyway. You're the same people 25 years ago who told us you were going to take care of our fish. How in the hell can we trust you now?"

  • Ann Christensen, Blaine County
    "It is time to stop studying the fish to death and face the truth. By the year 2017, the Snake River salmon, once one of the most prolific runs in the Northwest and Idaho's first natural resource industry, will be gone forever. I believe restored salmon runs are what the people of Idaho want. They do not want to explain to future generations that they sacrificed their salmon heritage for four costly and senseless dams that should have never have been built."

  • Sierra Laverty, age 7, Boise
    "The government made a promise to us kids that salmon wouldn't go extinct." Witnessing salmon spawn on the South Fork of the Salmon River in September, Laverty told her father, "I hope my kids can see spawning salmon like you showed me."

  • Idaho Rep. Ken Robison, D-Boise
    "There is no persuasive evidence that Snake River salmon will be saved, or restored, without breaching the dams. Lower Columbia River stocks that do not ride on barges and do not pass eight dams are doing much better, returning at up to 10 times the rate of Snake River salmon. What those fish tell us is that eight dams is too many. Economically, both Idaho and the region come out ahead if the dams are breached, salmon are restored and steelhead runs are increased."

  • Governor Dirk Kempthorne
    "Salmon are part of our history, part of our economy, part of our way of life. We in Idaho are mindful of our responsibilities. Idaho will do its part but we can not and will not do it alone. Others must share in the efforts as well. Challenging work lies ahead. I look forward in working with you to develop and implement a salmno recovery plan supported biologically, economically and politically. I do not believe breaching is the answer. There are other answers. Let's pursue them together immediately."

  • Steve Bliss, '20-year Idaho resident'
    "The question should not be should we breach dams, but how can we save the salmon? Breaching the dams is the most radical approach being proposed to save salmon. Breaching would destroy the river shipping system and would cost taxpayers 230 million dollars to replace over 3,000 lost jobs. I support alternative three. We should make improvements to juvenile fish passage, like turbine modifications, fish screens, spillway modifications and improvements in the barging system."

  • Keith Kinzer, Genesee farmer and member of Idaho Grain Producers
    "We don't support breaching and we don't support using any more water out of Idaho. What we do support is what we're really here for, and that's returning salmon runs to salmon runs to sustainable levels. Let's get back to that."

    (No breach and No Flow augmentation was heard many times in Idaho hearings, but note the untenable nature of this argument. See below What's at stake?)

  • Rep. Ruby Stone, R-Boise
    "I oppose any salmon recovery efforts that include the breaching of dams or the exportation of Idaho water for full(flow) augmentation. ... Other more reasonable and cost effective measures are available to us to recover fish lives. It is tempting to think one simple action can bring back the fish. Breaching dams appeals to that part of the human element that doesn't want to be burdened with complex problems but this is one of the most complex problems the northwest has ever faced. We might long for a silver bullet but recovering our salmon and steelhead runs will require a multifaceted solution."

  • Rep. John "Bert" Stevenson, R-Rupert
    "Will Idaho Power be able to operate their generating facilities and maintain the reliability that the Pacific Northwest has come to rely on for its power if the four lower Snake dams are removed?

    (bluefish notes that Idaho Power gets one-sixth of one percent of it's power from the four lower Snake dams

    I fear there will be irreparable damage to the econonmy of the state of Idaho before we know whether dam removal will save the salmon."

  • Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis
    "My brief comments are generic and fit most hearings related to federal management decisions and policies.

    One, man's biological opinion is another man's biological posion. No one bases his agenda on science. Everyone bases science on his agenda.

    Two, human beings are the primary fact for consideration. Human productivity and the economics of resource production are the bedrock of a civilized society.

    Three, the Endangered Species Act is a violation of the 10th Amendment and, therefore, unconstitutional.

    Four, dam breaching is board-rattling by a primitive witch doctor who must do something stupid to keep his standing with his peer group.

    Five, salmon recovery efforts are an expensive pig in a poke on which environmental lawyers feed.

The players

What's at stake?
If salmon go extinct, Idaho and the Pacific Northwest lose an icon of their wild character that still provides millions of dollars to the region's economy through fishing and tourism. The dams produce 5 percent of the region's power -- enough to power Seattle and allow barge shipping from Lewiston to Portland (Pasco actually - bluefish).

If dams aren't breached, harsh measures will be needed in other areas, including taking more water from Idaho reservoirs to speed flows through the dams, limits on develoment near salmon spawning rivers, ending most fishing and closing hatcheries, restrictions on dredging and other activities in the Columbia River, and enforced fish passage or removal of other regional dams such as Idaho's Hells Canyon complex.

Related sites:
Who Said What Lewiston Tribune, 2/11/00

Quotes compiled by Shannon Prather at Boise Caucus Hearing
Idaho's Voices
The Idaho Statesman, February 24, 2000

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