Salmon testimony hard to swallow
Bring on the Heimlich maneuverIdahos leaders
are going to need it.
More than 80 percent of people who testified in the recent Idaho hearings
on salmon recovery came down on the side of breaching four lower Snake dams.
It wasnt what was expected.
They came from all walks of life: farmers, foresters, fishermen,
industrialists and erstwhile defenders of the Earth packed hearing rooms up and down the
state to weigh in on the issue.
Funny. Since the hearings, the noise from Idahos staunchly
anti-breaching congressional delegation and anti-breaching governor has died down.
They had been shaking their rhetorical fists at the insult about to be
perpetrated on the state. They championed the Port of Lewiston and cheap power, and
decried the "interference" of the federal government in its own dams.
They desperately tried to manufacture middle groundoptions like
killing salmon-gobbling terns on the Columbia River and inventing fish-friendly turbines.
They tried hard to be on both sides at once. They claimed to be the voice of all Idahoans.
Now whose side are they on?
Silent Majority excuses for the pro-breaching testimony are surfacing, but
its going to be hard to make them stick.
The hearing testimony left Idahos anti-breaching officials with a
choice of facts: either Idahos conservation groups have grown incredibly powerful
and incredibly good at organizing people to turn out for hearings, or Idahoans really
support dam breaching as the best alternative for salmon recovery.
They cant blame the manner in which the hearings were conducted.
Hearing moderators repeatedly warned audiences that they were looking for technical
information the federal agencies may have overlooked, not taking an opinion poll. They
said they wanted only new information and that mere opinions would not count.
It was a fine attempt at objectivity, but it did not wash. Idahos
elected officials long ago politicized the death of the states salmon legacy, and
audiences knew it.
The potential extinction of the magnificent creatures in Idaho stirred
deep reactions. People drove long distances to attend hearings. They tolerated hour-long
explanations of studies and government processes before testimony began. They waited in
line into the wee hours of the morning to offer up opinions on dam breachingwhether
the moderators wanted to hear them or not. They knew others were watchingand keeping
Idahos congressional delegation now has a big problem. Sens. Larry
Craig and Mike Crapo and Reps. Helen Chenoweth-Hage and Mike Simpson somehow must
reconcile the overwhelming pro-breaching testimony with their positions.
Smoked salmon, anyone?