Lewiston Business Owners want Role
by Eric Barker
They say that whether the dams go or stay, impact on valley will be significant
A group of Lewiston businessmen have written a letter to Idaho's two U.S. senators, asking for a seat at the table if regional salmon talks are convened.
The letter, organized by Dustin Aherin of the group Citizens for Progress, states that Lewiston and Clarkston have much to gain or lose based on the direction of future salmon and steelhead restoration plans and whether or not those plans include breaching the four lower Snake River dams.
"Our towns, sitting on the banks of the reservoir behind Lower Granite Dam, have perhaps the most to gain or lose in any final outcome," according to the letter sent to Idaho's Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. "We recognize, perhaps more clearly than others who do not live here, that major questions confront our communities in either case - if the lower Snake dams stay or go."
For example, according to the letter, if the dams are breached, Lewiston and Clarkston will lose their seaport and "require major transportation investments in rail and highway infrastructure to replace it," as well as assistance with waterfront development.
If the dams stay, according to the letter, the communities will need help dealing with the increasing amount of sediment that is piling up in the Lower Granite pool that will impede barge transportation, increase flood risks, and perhaps lead to "the highly unpopular action of raising levees."
"These issues will in turn affect our critical need, which exists in any future scenario, for local economic development."
Crapo and Risch, both Republicans, have called for regional collaborative talks designed to improve salmon recovery efforts. Crapo has said all possible solutions, including dam breaching and leaving the dams in place, should be on the table for any such talks.
The letter does not take a stand on breaching the dams, a solution many environmental groups and the Nez Perce Tribe have advocated for.
"After an honest assessment of costs, benefits, and uncertainties, we may decide the dams should go. We may decide they should stay. We may remain of different minds," according to the letter. "But we all agree that long-term uncertainty, without an informed resolution, is the worst option of all."
The letter was signed by 21 business owners and copies where sent to Reps. Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson of Idaho, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and the senators representing Washington and Oregon.
Joe Strohmaier, owner of Land Title of Nez Perce County, said he signed the letter because he supports the idea of everyone being involved in future salmon recovery solutions.
"The discussion has been so polarized in the past. I think it's just important everyone gets together and talks about it rather than standing on two separate sides," he said. "Lewiston has a big stake in the game. That is a big part of our economy."
A.L. (Butch) Alford Jr., the semi-retired former editor and publisher of the Lewiston Tribune, described the letter as neutral and said it is common sense for people here to be involved in the talks.
"The Lewiston and Clarkston residents and we as business people have a strong stake and should be heard," he said.
Aherin said the communities have nothing to lose by joining the discussions and whether or not breaching is ultimately adopted, being involved in the talks is better than being on the sidelines.
"Lewiston, because of our location in the river system, stands the most to gain or lose from any decision made," Aherin said.
The letter was signed by Strohmaier, Alford, Aherin and Nathan Alford, editor and publisher of the Lewiston Tribune, Don Bott of Bott & Associates, Mark Bolland of Pacific Empire Radio, Mike Haines of the Diamond Shop, Mike Kingsley of King Services and Chem Dry, Mark Laird of Laird & Associates, Mark Poe of Poe Asphalt Paving, Brad Cannon of Cannon's Building Materials, Daniel Aherin of Macullen's Steak, Seafood & Spirit House, Chuck Christopher of Advantage Advertising, Mike Follett of Follett's Mountain Sports, Scott Arnone of Edwards Jones Investments, Tim Thompson of Thompson Auto & Marine Sales, Ron Reynolds of Grocery Outlet, Tom Turnbow of Printcraft Printing, Jim Sattler of Sattler Insurance, Richard Woods of Rick Woods Insurance and Jim Kluss of Kluss Appliance.
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