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Gorton Peddles Salmon-Recovery Myths to Easterners

by Jim Fisher, Lewiston Tribune
April 24(?), 2000

Northwesterners who want the lower Snake River dams to stay in place are no doubt pleased that Washington Sen.Slade Gorton is staking his political career on their defense. But as they seek arguments to help prevent the federal government from breaching the dams, they had better look to someone other than Gorton.

Last Sunday, Lewiston Tribune opinion pages published an editorial against breaching from the Oregonian of Portland that was well-grounded in facts and well-argued. Beneath it appeared a letter Gorton sent to The New York Times responding to a previous Times editorial endorsing breaching. Unlike the Oregonian's response, Gorton's traded in demonization of paper villains and distortions of what breaching would actually mean to the Northwest.

Gorton used an opportunity to tell an eastern newspaper it didn't know what it was talking about to peddle his own myths that no knowledgeable Northwesterner could take seriously.

For example, Gorton said he was asking "The New York Times editorial board to look beyond the press releases prepared by radical D.C.-based special interest groups and review the science." But he knows better than that where the breaching proposal comes from.

It comes primarily from scientists, and not scientists based in Washington, D.C. They are the fish biologists who have worked with the declining runs of Snake River salmon for Northwest state governments and Indian tribes. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission did not endorse a finding that breaching offered the best promise of restoring salmon runs because radical D.C.-based special interest groups said it should. It did it because its own biologists persuaded the commission that's what the evidence pointed to.

Gorton also painted for Times readers a picture of an eastern Washington left without both river transportation and irrigation water if the dams are breached. Everyone in the region knows, however, that barge transportation would continue between Pasco and Portland, rather than between Lewiston- Clarkston and Portland. And no more than 13 farms would require longer water lines and stronger pumps to continue irrigating their fields.

Finally, Gorton assured readers that "our local salmon recovery groups" are already making progress toward returning the fisheries to their native waters. Which groups is he talking about?

To date, most other proposals to help restore salmon have also met with organized opposition from those who would be expected to help make them work. The Washington Farm Bureau, as just one example, has vociferously attacked proposed streamside buffers, showing how diligently its members are, in Gorton's words, "working to put food on the table for families worldwide and are also working every day to restore our salmon runs."

The truth is if salmon recovery is left to the people Gorton credits, or the people pouring money into his re-election campaign this year, the fish are doomed. But this page need not tell him that. He knows it. He just tried to put something else over on readers of a distant newspaper.

Jim Fisher, is a columnist and editorial writer for the Tribune.
Gorton Peddles Salmon-Recovery Myths to Easterners
Lewiston Tribune, April 24(?), 2000

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