Activists Bring Potent Symbols,
by Eric Barker
Drift boats and grain trucks were parked Monday in front of the Quality Inn in Clarkston, both meant to serve as powerful symbols in the debate over salmon recovery, dam breaching and its consequences.
Speakers at each rally debated via bullhorn and loud speaker the merits and consequences of dam removal, the river transportation system and the hydropower capacity of the dams.
People on each side carried placards and occasionally heckled the other as speakers tried to simultaneously make points and sway the crowd before a congressional subcommittee hearing on the future of the Snake River.
The two opposing sides met briefly in the middle when some of those speaking in favor of keeping dams said new railways, rail cars, power plants and roads need to be built before dams can be breached.
"Build everything first, before you tear it down," said Curt Koegen, the business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers union local No. 370 at Spokane.
"Let's do it," shouted Dustan Aherin, a raft and hunting guide from Lewiston.
When asked, Koegen said he doesn't believe the transportation, irrigation and power production infrastructure improvements are viable options.
"We would support it if it would happen, but we just don't have the money to do it," he said.
Dam supporters and salmon advocates each came armed with statistics and facts to support their side. They pounced when they thought they heard a fib or exaggeration told by the other side. The confrontations were mostly civil but two men had to be separated after some pushing and shoving took place at the beginning of the rally as several people jockeyed for position with their signs.
According to Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings, no arrests were made.
"We removed them from each other's location," Hastings said. "We were prepared. We had officers there and in the area."
Dam supporters brought huge grain trucks to the rally and spoke glowingly about the river system that provides a way to ship grain and other products into and out of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, produce cheap and clean power and support what they said are improving fish runs.
Salmon advocates brought drift boats and spoke about the money that could be generated by fishing recovered salmon runs, the federal government's treaty obligations with Indian tribes to recover salmon and the value of the Endangered Species Act.
The rallies lasted about two hours.
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