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Commentaries and editorials

Scary Salmon Rhetoric

by Kevin Richert
Idaho Statesman, October 23, 2008

GOP Rep. Bill Sali's campaign is trying to score political points by saying Walt Minnick supports breaching the four lower Snake River dams. Minnick, the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District, says he won't rule out breaching, in the interest of saving Idaho salmon.

To me, the scariest and least constructive salmon rhetoric comes from Sali, and an anti-breaching resolution he introduced in the House 15 months ago.

Sali goes beyond the typical opposition to breaching that has become commonplace in Idaho politics - partly because it plays so well in Idaho's port city of Lewiston. Sali actually suggests Idaho's salmon are better off with dams standing in the path of their migration to and from the Pacific Ocean.

Sali argues that salmon and steelhead survivability has increased with the dams in place. (If that's the case, and eight lower Snake and Columbia river dams are good, wouldn't 16 be better?) Sali actually argues that dam removal "would be devastating to salmon and steelhead stocks."

That puts Sali in a familiarly contrarian position, since the scientific consensus holds that removing portions of the four lower Snake River dams give Idaho wild salmon their best shot at recovery, and possibly their last chance of survival.

The most encouraging comments about salmon recovery this year have come from GOP Senate candidate Jim Risch. If elected, Risch says he will try to get the competing salmon stakeholders together to try to reach a consensus. To be clear, Risch is not pro-breaching. He doesn't think the science supports it - but he doesn't rule out that the science may look different in the future. "We may get to that point," Risch said this spring.

That's the kind of open-mindedness that might help break the salmon impasse. Sali's resolution doesn't cut it.

Kevin Richert
Scary Salmon Rhetoric
Idaho Statesman, October 23, 2008

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