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Craig Offers Bogus, Exaggerated Claims

by R.L. "Nick" Nicholson
Idaho Statesman, September 24, 2005

In his Sept. 4 Reader's View in The Idaho Statesman, Sen. Larry Craig is repeating for the umpteenth time that "pro-salmon advocates" are not dealing with what he terms key facts.

Craig is attempting to focus the debate away from the fish and into areas that he apparently believes are more important than Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead. He lists problems he should be working to solve rather than use as excuses to support outdated low-value Washington dams. Never does he offer any new or innovative ideas to save our fish. Instead he simply lists reasons, some bogus, some exaggerated, why we should continue to let our wild fish go extinct, while at the same time saying, "I don't suggest salmon are not worth saving." It's no wonder he is receiving so much criticism.

No "pro-fish advocate" has ever suggested that saving wild salmon and steelhead will be easy. Of course there will be costs, but it will be money well-spent. The only reasonable salvation for our wild fish lies in removal of the four lower Snake River dams. That's the dreaded breaching alternative that collides head-on with Craig and his downstream interests.

His debate tactics are as old as politics. If you cannot defend your position, shift the focus to negative areas. He starts by forecasting skyrocketing power costs if we lose the electricity generated by the four dams. He continues by warning of increases in fossil-fuel emissions and greenhouse gases to generate replacement power. This is from the man who has consistently voted against clean-air standards while he has been in office. His claim that the four Snake dams could supply Seattle's power needs is an exaggeration. Perhaps for two months in the spring, but that's it.

Presently the Idaho Public Utilities Commission is considering the proposed Schwendiman wind energy project. Coupled with the Bell Rapids wind project, Idaho could produce more wind energy than the four lower Snake River dams combined furnish to Idaho (36 megawatts).

He states that it "is a fact that 75 million cubic yards of silt have accumulated behind the four dams over the years." We appreciate his pointing out this dam-caused problem.

He doesn't tell you 70 percent of the silt is in a single pool behind Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston. When the dams are breached, some of the silt will flush, but most of it will just remain, creating fertile soil. Some will create sandbars. Some Alaskan rivers run silt 24-7, and the fish do fine. Also the costs of maintaining a channel through that stored silt must be considerable.

Yes, we will lose the seaport of Lewiston, but the trucking and rail ports will remain in place. Some grain will be shipped by truck 150 miles to Pasco and then barged to Portland. Other shippers will help create an expanded rail system much like Washington state is already investing in. This is an area where mitigation is called for, and current seaport subsidies can help offset costs.

Craig ends his argument by saying, "We can achieve both viable salmon populations and a healthy economy if we focus on the right issues." I couldn't agree more. The right issues are harvestable, sustainable, restored wild salmon and steelhead runs. Recent studies show this will produce a $544 million industry in our state.

Ask our senior senator why he continues to support four outdated dams in Washington at the expense of our precious water resources and equally precious fish. Ask him to stop making excuses and be a problem-solver. That's what Idaho needs now. Ask him to be legislator of the year for Idaho's fishing industry instead of the hydropower industry. He needs to know that those of us who consider ourselves pro-fish advocates (his words), will not rest until the four low-value Snake dams are extinct instead of our magnificent wild fish.

R.L. "Nick" Nicholson of Eagle is the immediate past president of Idaho Steelhead & Salmon Unlimited, a group advocating salmon recovery.
Craig Offers Bogus, Exaggerated Claims
Idaho Statesman, September 24, 2005

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