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NW: Dams and college

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1SALMON/ENVIRONMENT Perspective on the salmon debate from Rocky Barker/Idaho Statesman noting that the impending change in the Northwest’s congressional delegation, combined with the change of presidential administrations, may mean an entirely new approach for salmon. Even before January: He points to this week’s dam removal agreement on the Klamath River as “a major shift in the government’s position on dams in the West.”

Let’s unpack that just a bit, expanding the view. The Washington congressional delegation hasn’t changed, but there are critical changes in the other two. In Oregon, Republican Senator Gordon Smith is being replaced by Democrat Jeff Merkley, who is considerably greener; in the House 5th district, where one Democrat replaces another, newcomer Kurt Schrader is likely to be a bit more green-oriented than Darlene Hooley. In Idaho’s Senate delegation, Republican Jim Risch replaces Republican Larry Craig, but the change could be significant; Craig presented himself as almost always flatly opposed to environmental proposals, while Risch turned out to be as green as most Democrats on the environment during his months as governor. (That probably will give Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson a big assist in developing their environmental efforts in the Owyhee Canyonlands and White Clouds area, respectively.) And, there’s the change from the 1st House district from Republican Bill Sali to Democrat Walt Minnick, who has been active in environmental groups.

Put it together, and what was a fairly close balance on environmental issues now tilts decisively green in the Northwest delegation. And that’s before you get to the impact of the Obama Administration.

2VOTE COUNTS And still they’re counting votes in Washington. And especially in Pierce County, where they’ve been trying out both traditional and ranked-choice ballots. Earlier deadlines for ballot delivery could help.

3POWELLS REMAKE Book people will have opinions, without a doubt, about the new exterior at Powell’s City of Books – the flagship – in downtown Portland.

4COLLEGE ENROLLMENT For the first time in more than a decade, Oregon threw some serious money at its higher education institutions. And now (in the Oregonian, but reflected in other papers around the state as well): “. . . the state’s universities hired faculty, increased pay, improved student services, stepped up recruitment and built and renovated classrooms and labs. In addition, Oregon more than doubled the money for college grants this year and launched a statewide campaign to tell students and their parents about it. The message worked: More than 15,430 students in Oregon public universities received $33.8 million in state grants this fall, more than twice last year’s numbers. The economy also is a factor, because more students seek higher education when jobs are harder to find.”

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