Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Donít skimp on water quality

Several years ago, Gov. Otter, after two previous violations of the Clean Water Act, had to pay a $50,000 fine for violations while polluting a side channel of the Boise River. It should come as no surprise that he has done all he could to end water-quality monitoring in Idaho.

In 2008 to 2009, Gov. Otter was complicit with the Legislature in successfully defunding the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's water-monitoring program. That leaves about 33,500 miles of rivers and 186,680 acres of freshwater lakes with insufficient monitoring data to protect them from pollution. This is in a state that advertises itself as "the Whitewater State," never mind the world-class trout, steelhead and salmon fisheries that bring tens of millions of dollars into our struggling economy.

Adjusting the budget in these financial times is logical, but cutting essentials is not. Clean water is not optional, it is essential—it is our lifeblood. Our health and economy depend on clean water for domestic and commercial consumption and recreation.

It makes no sense and is a false economy to defund water quality monitoring when the cost to clean polluted streams and lakes is enormously more expensive. Without baseline monitoring data, it will be virtually impossible to set and maintain minimum standards. It is always far less expensive to recognize and stop the pollution before the damage is done. In the last year alone, the state has spent tens of millions of federal and state (taxpayer) dollars to clean up the Coeur d'Alene basin and many other polluted waters.

The governor and Legislature must reinstate our water-quality-monitoring program—it is essential to the health and economy of Idaho.

Steve Wolper


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