Judge's Ruling on Dam Flow
Last week's order by U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland, Ore., to increase the flow of water spilled over four dams on the lower Snake River and Columbia River to assist the migration of salmon to the ocean is welcome news, despite the tocsin sounded by Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and others that it will raise the cost of electricity. We're talking here about survival of these threatened and endangered fish.
Any objective person must concede that salmon have been severely impacted by construction of the dams. First, the slack water created by the reservoirs behind the dams results in a slower ocean migration for smolts. Second, when adult salmon attempt to return to their fresh water origins to spawn, their return is impeded by the dams.
Judge Redden's announcement has been met with the typical scorn and calumny we have come to expect from our political representatives. The Bonneville Power Administration, supplier of energy for many utilities in the Northwest, predicts the extra spill will cost ratepayers a total of $67 million, amounting to an increase of 4 to 5 percent in the wholesale rate of about $32 per megawatt.
But Idaho Rivers United director Bill Sedivy argues that electricity rates would increase only 2 percent at most, and less in Idaho, where only about 12 percent of all power consumed comes from the BPA.
Idaho Congressman C.L. "Butch" Otter, a candidate for Idaho governor in 2006, has risen to the defense of the agricultural and timber industries, saying that lawsuits protecting the salmon's migratory route have "had devastating consequences on the economy of Idaho."
Otter does concede that salmon "are an important part of our heritage and economy, and maintaining the salmon in the Snake River is a very high priority."
Obviously, it is not as high a priority to him as maintaining the economic status quo.
The critics fail to state what the economic benefit of preserving salmon runs would be - millions of dollars in the form of a clean activity, not to mention the enormous recreation benefit.
But there is more than dollars at stake here. What does it say of us as a people if we allow the extinction of a species due to economic concerns? We are the living witnesses to the willing extinction of these beautiful fish. Will that be the legacy that future generations will judge us by?
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