the film
Commentaries and editorials

Seattle City Council Right About the Dams
in Eastern Washington

by Leroy Eadie, Guest columnist
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 21, 2000

As a lifelong resident of Eastern Washington, I applaud the Seattle City Council for saying what few Northwest leaders are willing to say: Saving wild salmon is important to the entire Northwest, it affects us all and here is our contribution to the solution.

I was born and raised on the Colville Indian Reservation and have resided in Spokane for the past 15 years. I grew up with stories of great salmon runs that sustained people of the entire Columbia Plateau. I worry that my son will not experience wild salmon thriving in a healthy river, that fishing businesses will continue to disappear and that Washington tribes will be denied their treaty right to salmon.

Healthy wild salmon runs are an economic and cultural resource for the tribes and for thousands of fishing families in rural communities and a large part of our quality of life. We all have an important stake in whatever salmon recovery decisions are made and we have the right -- and the obligation -- to make our voices heard and help determine the path for our region and its salmon. This decision doesn't get made in only Eastern or Western Washington, but it must involve both communities.

However, I am very concerned about statements from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and elected leaders such as Sen. Slade Gorton who question why the Seattle City Council has taken a position on this issue. Like a lot of us, I think members of the City Council are doing what they can; they are offering leadership.

The four dams are federal projects and are built and operated with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars. Salmon are a regional resource and a national treasure. Wild salmon belong to everyone, including our children and their children. Communities from Idaho to California and Alaska all have a stake in Columbia and Snake rivers salmon decisions.

Ratepayers and taxpayers across the region will be affected by this decision. As I see it, the Seattle City Council is trying to do what's best for our entire region.

This decision is not about city vs. rural. Many rural fishing families from Riggins, Idaho, to Astoria, Ore., to southeast Alaska and California have seen jobs and dollars lost due to fishing restrictions driven by the declines in Snake River salmon. The economic and cultural impacts on tribes are immeasurable. This is about what is best for our entire region and how we come together to make decisions.

I am shocked that the P-I thinks the City Council should remain silent and instead simply rely on federal agencies to solve our salmon crisis. Inaction and endless studies by federal agencies are precisely why numerous towns, scientists, businesses, tribes, editorial boards and citizens from across the country have spoken out in favor of bypassing the four dams. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

I would much rather let the democratic process of discussion and public participation take its course than rely simply on the federal agencies, as proposed by the Seattle P-I. Gorton's tactic of closed-door, sneaky "riders" will do little to unite Northwesterners around an actual solution to the salmon crisis.

I'm tired of federal agencies wasting hundreds of millions of our dollars on failed schemes, such as barging and trucking fish downstream. These solutions are absurd. If we do not deal with the four Lower Snake dams, we are very likely to continue this 20-year failure. I maintain we can mitigate the impacts of removing the Snake River dams, but it has been proved on the Snake River that we cannot mitigate the impacts of dams on salmon.

We need to wake up and propose real solutions that will work now, instead of just saying no. Doing nothing not only risks salmon and dollars, it will very likely render us powerless in this debate and will make us subject to court-imposed mandates.

Eastern Washington leaders complain about the possible costs of salmon recovery, but they are missing the real benefits salmon can provide to communities throughout the region. They also are ignoring the costs that fishing businesses, tribes and families have already been paying due to salmon declines. And they are ignoring the heavy costs of keeping the four dams, including several hundred million dollars in upkeep costs over the next few years.

The Seattle City Council has the guts to support what makes good long-term sense for the entire region. I wish more Eastern Washington leaders would do the same.

Related Pages:
Seattle City Council Blew It On Dams Seattle P-I by Francois X. Forgette

Guest columnist Leroy Eadie a city planner, lives in Spokane.
Seattle City Council Right About the Dams in Eastern Washington
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 21, 2000

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