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Dam McDermott

by Editorial Board
Columbia Basin Herald, August 25, 2009

How obvious can one congressman be?

Adult Spring Chinook passing Wells Dam

If you are passionate about the environment, are you going to be fooled by Rep. Jim McDermott's latest efforts to save salmon? He introduced legislation to tear down four dams on the Snake River.

Saving salmon is a noble cause, but what about carbon-free, renewable, constant energy? Hydropower dams produce renewable electricity 24 hours a day, even when there is no wind or when the sun has gone down. What does he want us to use to replace all of the massive amounts of clean electricity lost if the dams are gone? Coal plants? Nuclear energy? Buying it from out of state?

This is the fifth time McDermott has tried to remove the dams. But who is he doing it for? His fellow Democrats are not supporting him this time. Only one of his 23 House co-sponsors is from the Pacific Northwest. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are staying out of this attempt. Even fellow Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks is opposing the bill.

That leaves special interest groups. They must be lobbying him with ideas of how popular he would be to save salmon. In the Seventh District, Seattle, voters tend to follow green candidates. But removing clean renewable energy to save salmon? Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, was cited in a newspaper as delivering a veiled threat to Murray by singling her out for her lack of support. She runs for re-election next year.

Map showing location of 4 lower Snake River dams and reservoirs being considered for removal Three years after the spring chinook salmon was listed as an endangered species, a record number of them returned to Okanogan County. Yep, they passed 10 dams between the Pacific Ocean and Brewster to get there.

(bluefish notes:Upper Columbia Spring Chinook, listed as 'endangered in 1999, pass the dams and reservoirs of Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day, McNary, Priest Rapid, Wanapum, Rock Island, Rocky Reach and Wells Dam none of which are mentioned in McDermott's bill.)

The University of Oregon cited a study indicating ocean conditions made for favorable feeding during the salmon's ocean cycle. It was the highest number returning in 70 years.

Now you can buy a permit, catch them and eat them. All without tearing down the dams. (bluefish: only hatchery fish, marked by a scar where their adipose fin has been removed, are allowed to be taken.)

New designs for turbines are proving 96 percent of young salmon can pass through on their way to the ocean without being injured or killed.

(bluefish: reservoirs present a substantial mortality to juvenile salmonids, see Survival of Downstream Migration from NMFS' 2000 FCRPS Biological Opinion)

So what is it about the Snake River dams that drives McDermott like a blind, rabid lemming to remove them?

This time he knew it wouldn't be a popular move. He hid language in a bill to assign the responsibility of tearing them down to an un-elected bureaucrat. It authorizes the secretary of the U.S. Army to remove them. The Army? Why would they decide an energy and environment issue?

The bill requires another federal study. This one to use the resources and funding of the National Academy of Science and four federal agencies. We guess he didn't like all of the other studies indicating the removal of the Snake River dams would be a mistake. He will probably push for another study if this one is approved and comes back suggesting the dams remain. Are you going to keep trying until you get one you like Jim? Please stop wasting our tax dollars.

McDermott's latest attempt to destroy clean renewable energy sources -- dams, comes with insults to people in the Columbia Basin. According to the Tri-City Herald, he said Rep. Doc Hastings and the people in the Fourth District are members of "the Flat Earth Society."

"They never would have sailed out of the sight of land because they think the earth is flat," McDermott said.

Let's drop the charade once and for all. McDermott doesn't care about the environment. He wants to destroy four sources of carbon free renewable energy. He says it is to save salmon. We don't think so. It seems he is more eager to please Seattle elitists such as Ford and the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition.

If he really cared about salmon runs, he would have done something about the most obvious cause of dwindling salmon returns. He would be working to outlaw the catching and consumption of salmon. Even though they are endangered, salmon are still commercially caught, smoked, canned and sold for consumption. Heck, you can still buy cat food with "real salmon." Does he think fund-raising dinners would stop if he didn't serve salmon? Would Fluffy be mad without a little salmon in her dinner?

How can anyone look voters in the eyes and say they are willing to throw away clean energy to save salmon? We need electricity to survive. But we can always find something else to eat.

Related Pages:
Salmon, Water, Energy Policies Should be Considered Together by Sara Patton, The News Tribune, 8/26/9

Related Sites:
The salmon struggle: A fish by any other color is just not natural by Alex Roth, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/23/3
"In a now-famous public display of ignorance, former Idaho Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth mused that salmon can't be endangered because she buys them at the supermarket."

Are You Trying to Seduce Me, Mrs. Chenoweth? by Daniel Coyle, Outside Magazine, 11/98
Salmon Solutions and Planning Act introdcued by Congressman Jim McDermott, 2009

Editorial Board
Dam McDermott
Columbia Basin Herald, August 25, 2009

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