Waffles and Salmon Poor Menu for Goreby Editors
Scranton Times, June 2, 2000
Salmon that breed in the Columbia River system of the Pacific Northwest could be extinct within 17 years unless the federal government removes four dams, yet self-proclaimed environmental champion Al Gore refuses to take a stand.
The dams, built between 1962 and 1975, cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year to operate, besides the high costs of extraordinary and even bizarre methods that have been employed in a failed effort to restore the salmon population. Despite transportation by truck and barge, runs of 100,000 or more salmon in the 1960s have dwindled to only 3,000.
Environmental and economic concerns should prompt the vice president to make an issue of dam removal in the presidential campaign, since his opponent, George W. Bush, opposes their removal.
Taxpayers take a double hit from the dams: the impending loss of a valuable natural resource and national subsidies for local electrical generation. Electricity in Seattle costs five times less than electricity in Philadelphia, for example, because taxpayers pick up the costs of operating the dams in the Northwest that produce it.
Even so, the removal of the dams would increase the average Northwest electricity bill only by $1 to $4 a month. And the money saved from operating funds could be used to improve rail and road transportation in the region. That would solve the other economic issue, moving grain to ports.
It's a tough issue in an important region for a Democratic presidential candidate, but Mr. Gore should summon the same courage exhibited by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber: "If our salmon runs are not healthy then our watersheds are not healthy. A highly degraded ecosystem . . . represents a decision to mortgage the legacy with which we have been blessed for our own short-term benefit."
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