Friday, June 2, 2006

Idaho's signature species, the salmon, missing from quarter design

Guest opinion by Scott Levy

Scott Levy, of Ketchum, is the host of the Web site, and director, editor and screenwriter of the documentary "RedFish BlueFish."


Washington unveiled the state's commemorative quarter design, a salmon leaping from tree-lined waters below Mount Rainier. Washington apple growers were dismayed by this choice. Similarly, Idaho's potato growers were disappointed when former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne narrowed the choice for Idaho's coin from 1200 suggestions to five. The designs still under consideration are: a peregrine falcon, an aerial view of farmland, the first two lines of the state song, the word Idaho, and the snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains with a rocky river "subtly creating the outline of the state."

Conspicuously absent from Idaho's Sawtooth design is any indication of the sockeye salmon that graced these mountain lakes for millennia. Missing from the rocky river are any signs of chinook salmon or steelhead rainbow trout that once returned to Idaho's waters by the tens of thousands. But as we all know, these runs are now in serious decline, hence their absence from Kempthone's choice among Idaho citizens' designs.

What does this say about our (former) governor's desire to restore these once magnificent runs? Given the choice, what would the Northwest Congressional delegation and their November 2006 challengers choose? Ask them if you get the chance.

Washington Congressman Doc Hastings thinks that you should. He recommends, "Every candidate who asks for your vote should tell you exactly where they stand on protecting our dams. You should not only expect a direct answer you should demand one. There is no room for complacency - the threat to our dams is as real as ever." On this much I agree, but I jump ship when he continues with a request "that Northwest lawmakers stand united in opposition to dam removal." Hastings continues, "Your elected officials will need to stand-up to defend Central Washington's way-of-life from the dam-busting agendas of extreme environmental groups."

Unfortunately for Idaho's ocean-going fish, it appears that all of our representatives aim to side with Hastings. Will there be any November challengers willing to speak for salmon recovery? One can only ask.

Idaho congressional candidate Norm Semanko, who lost in May primary election for District 1, vehemently opposes efforts to remove Washington's Lower Snake dams and reservoirs, as he says this would "decimate shipping out of Lewiston, Idaho, and hurt our ability to produce power." He is asking us to ignore that only one-sixth of one percent of Idaho's electricity comes from these dams and that the vast majority of goods that travel through Lewiston do so on truck or train.

With Washington's Lower Snake dams and reservoirs in place, Idaho's salmon and steelhead will not recover - you can bet on that (if you could only find someone to seriously wager on the other side).

Electric power from these four dams benefits Washingtonians.

Sending loaded barges through these four locks (at no cost) benefits Washington wheat farmers. Washington emblazoned a salmon on their commemorative quarter, while Idaho likely will not.

Now that Kempthorne is off to his new job in D.C., (as secretary of the Interior) you might call our new governor, Jim Risch (208-334-2200). Who knows? Maybe he cares enough to place a salmon in the streams of Idaho's quarter design.

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