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Commentaries and editorials

EPA Isn't What's Blocking
Salmon and Steelhead

by Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, August 25, 2004

The greatest possible upstream passage of salmon and steelhead is in the interest of everyone above McNary Dam on the Columbia River. Everyone.

Some of us just want to catch them, or rather, need to catch them. But for the rest, it's more complicated.

If for any reason, the number of fish returning upstream is curtailed, protections kick in, which threatens irrigation, electrical generation, pool levels for barge traffic, fishing and the upstream dams themselves.

Those protections are not the enemy. The longer upstream interests consider the Endangered Species Act their foe, the longer they will fall prey to interests that profit from fish not getting up here. Rather, those protections, applied as vigorously downstream as they are upstream, also protect our interests.

There are five things equally impervious to anything that might happen upstream, including economic catastrophe: Bonneville, the Dalles, John Day, McNary and El Nino. The first four are the big dams, of course, and the last is a climatic phenomenon which is flaring again in the north Pacific. None of those are going anywhere, and none are good for us.

Besides commercial fish harvest, one thing we need to pay attention to is irrigation downstream -- not necessarily the amount of water irrigators take, but how they use that water.

Columbia Basin irrigation-intense agriculture is among the most heavily subsidized on the planet. Those irrigators owe their existence to the lower (Columbia) dams, and the dams harm the fish, which threatens economic vitality upstream.

The fruit growers along the Columbia have a responsibility not to engage in practices that hurt fish passage, and subsequently our economic well-being.

But that is what they're doing. On Monday the Wenatchee World reported that Columbia Valley fruit growers applied 270,330 pounds of chlorpyrifos (lorsban), a powerful and controversial pesticide to apples, cherries and pears. That's 74 percent of the total amount used nationally. Most of it is applied well within the bluff lines of the Columbia.

Besides being a danger to fish, that pesticide is linked to lung disease, cancer and nerve damage in humans.

Just a few weeks ago, the Bush administration, under the pretense of "streamlining," cut fish managers out of the loop in pesticide approval along salmon-bearing streams. And now we see why that is such a horrible idea.

Southeast Washington and Idaho politicians constantly point to environmentalists as the enemy. But are they? Who is standing in the way of practices downstream that hurt us upstream? Not our politicians. Somebody ought to tell them BS doesn't just flow downstream.

Patrick McGann
EPA Isn't What's Blocking Salmon and Steelhead
Lewiston Tribune, August 25, 2004

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