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Commentaries and editorials

Swimming Into Oblivion

by Peter Nevin
Letters to Editor, Seattle Times - May 17, 2003

Against the current wisdom

Editor, The Times:

The courts have determined again that federal efforts to protect wild salmon, our region's icon, are inadequate and illegal ("U.S. judge orders revision in strategy to save salmon," Local News, May 8). Again, these agencies will go back to the drawing board and come up with another plan that actually works. The article raises dam removal on the lower Snake River as a key recovery option. Oh, horrors!

Before the cries of economic devastation from Eastern Washington deafen all other voices, I encourage our Northwest dignitaries, particularly newspapers and elected officials (Hello? Is anyone in Congress paying attention?), to resist their past instincts to duck and cover: Ask some questions. Seek additional information. What will happen if we remove the four Snake River dams? There is enough evidence today to suggest that we should explore this further.

Last year, for example, RAND Corp. recommended the region reduce its over-reliance on hydropower. It also concluded that we could remove these dams (that produce just 5 percent of the region's supply), and replace them with cost-effective, clean energy without hurting the economy and create up to 15,000 jobs.

Transportation is the real issue: Can we replace river barging and still get crops to market? Trains into the ports of Portland and Puget Sound currently serve the Northwest, and with some additional investments, could probably do the job. What would it cost? Could we save money and ask that expensive federal programs (i.e., taxpayer funding for Eastern Washington farms, river barging and salmon recovery) work in concert instead of conflict?

With more than $1 billion spent annually for these programs, we all should be concerned, and asking these questions.

Peter Nevin, Seattle

Up a creek when everyone has something to peddle

Bob Simmons has written the obituary for urban streams and their salmon as they are in their final death throes (""Seattle's creeks were once choked with salmon. Do we have the courage to bring them back? Times guest commentary, May 11).

In Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, pretend and reality are separated by a train ride. In the real world, pretense is elevated to art form. Simmons has correctly identified the critical-area ordinances as red herrings. There may be a few struggling salmon, but beyond background for photo ops for the politicians to look environmentally concerned, they have been deemed an impediment to profit-making.

For the 13 years I've been here, I have been agonizing over North Creek's deterioration, encountering Simmons' list of contributing factors one by one. Absent has been any sense of a common good. I've had a dedicated federal employee on the phone in hysterical laughter that I even thought there was a chance to save the salmon of North Creek. Apparently, North Creek and many other urban creeks were written off years ago.

Why don't we get real, have a funeral, serving the last salmon in the urban creeks at the accompanying meal, letting us feel like a community in our common loss, and free up everyone for profit-making without this elaborate charade?

Adelaide Loges, Mill Creek

Peter Nevin, Seattle
Swimming Into Oblivion
Seattle Times Company, May 17, 2003

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