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Commentaries and editorials

In Between Two Sides

by Scott Levy
Letter to Editor, Times-News, January 31, 2002

In an attempt to appear fair and balanced, news editors oftentimes ask their writers to show the "two sides to every story." Unfortunately, this approach overlooks the common ground where the two sides might agree.

A fine example of this is evident in the issue of Idaho's salmon and Washington's Snake River dams.

Among the many concerns of dam supporters are those of the 13 farmers along the Lower Snake River who pump water from the reservoir behind Little Goose Dam.

On average, this water is pumped 400 feet to irrigate approximately 36,000 acres, 23 percent of which is planted in Cottonwood and Poplar trees for paper production. On average, the intakes are located where the reservoir is roughly 80 feet deep, thereby saving a fifth of their electric pumping cost as compared to pumping from a free-flowing river 80 feet below.

This irrigation/pumping benefit is one of the chief concerns for those that wish to protect the lower Snake River dams and, as a legitimate concern, it should be properly addressed.

But nowhere in the public debate over the existence of these dams and the existence of Idaho's wild salmon have I seen an attempt to assuage these legitimate concerns. Instead, the news media apparently wishes to only reveal the "two sides of the story" while neglecting the solutions that lay in between.

Has anyone considered a pipeline along the current shoreline to provide these irrigators with the same amount of water at the same elevation head at no extra cost to the irrigators?

This simple solution is readily available yet has never gained attention in newsprint. Why is that?

Recent world events have emphasized the importance of reading diverse opinions in an effort to understand the backgrounds and concerns of everyone involved with an issue. It is not necessary that we agree with every angle but it is important that we listen to each other's concerns.

Is it reasonable to ask our news media to be "fair and objective" while exploring more than just the "two sides to every story?" If all of us were to collectively seek to resolve our differences rather than to highlight and accentuate them, what a different world we might create.

For more details on this irrigation plan and others see my Federal Caucus testimony posted at:

Scott Levy is director of the website and creator of the film RedFish BlueFish
In Between Two Sides
Times-News, January 31, 2002

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