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For the week of Feb. 23 through Feb. 29, 2000

Last call for salmon


It’s last call for salmon in Idaho.

Will the human masters of the Snake and Columbia rivers let the state’s salmon runs be destroyed?

Will the desire to preserve the 5 percent of the region’s cheap power generated by four dams on the lower Snake overwhelm the desire to return the endangered runs to Idaho’s rivers?

Will the desire to maintain a federally subsidized inland port in Lewiston prevail over the desire of small communities such as Riggins, Salmon and Stanley to preserve tourist economies tied to salmon fishing?

Or, will four dams be breached in an effort to bring salmon runs back to 1960s levels—the alternative supported by an overwhelming majority of fisheries scientists?

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Army Corp. of Engineers are asking the people of Idaho what should be done.

Locals will have a chance to let them know what they think in a hearing today in Boise and in another in Twin Falls on Wednesday, March 8 at the Weston Plaza, 1350 Blue Lakes Blvd., at 5 p.m.

The Idaho Conservation League is organizing free bus transportation from the Wood River Valley to the hearing.

The hearings could be the last chance for public participation in the future of the salmon.

Dam breaching—those are fighting words in North Idaho. Breaching will destroy the Port of Lewiston and result in a loss of jobs. However, the industries that depend on barging—paper factories and wheat growers—have other alternatives, including rail and trucks.

The economic impact on Lewiston, while painful, must be balanced against the huge cost to American taxpayers of maintaining an artificial inland port with federal dams.

It must also be balanced against the economic benefits of salmon.

Salmon are more than a colorful part of the state’s outdoor legacy. They generate jobs and income just like skiing, boating, camping, and other kinds of hunting and fishing.

A study released last year showed that renewed salmon runs would generate an estimated $72 million in expenditures by anglers each year. The study was conducted by Don Reading/Ben Johnson Associates, a Tallahassee, Fla., firm that specializes in economic analysis

The runs would support 2,100 Idaho jobs, with 700 of them in rural riverside communities such as Riggins and Stanley.

Because business generates business as dollars wend their way through a region’s economy, the expenditures by anglers would generate an estimated $170 million per year from the improved recreational fishing industry that would result.

That’s not chump change.

In Idaho, salmon mean business. Restoring salmon runs is not just about providing pretty pictures for nature lovers. The runs should receive no less consideration and be regarded as no less important to Idaho than mining, grazing and timber, the industries beloved by Idaho conservatives because of their history of producing jobs.

It’s time to rally support for saving the salmon runs. Testimony is critical to determining if they will continue or become a distant memory of life in the old Northwest.

 

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