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Simpson and salmon

hartgen

Idaho Second District Congressman Mike Simpson’s proposal to breach Snake River dams does something very few Idaho proposals have ever achieved: it would effectively destroy major economic vitality in big parts both north and Southern Idaho.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a Congressman who has served two decades representing Southern Idaho, but who now proposes a plan which would dry up Southern Idaho farmland as well as eliminate the Port of Lewiston as an inland products terminal and rob the whole Northwest region of electric power to light a million homes. And this to fall short of its stated goal of “Saving the Salmon.” (www.simpson.house.gov/salmon/)
Indeed, the plan admits it may not succeed. No matter. Nothing done so far has worked, so the plan says, so it doubles the money spent. It’s a truly stunning proposal in its scope but also in its likely negative impacts on all of Idaho.

The price: $33billion dollars, twice what we’ve already spent trying to “Save The Salmon” with virtually no success, and with both the old and new money to come from our pockets in the form of increased federal debt and inevitably higher taxes and other costs.

And, as with many government proposals, the real costs are likely much higher. Doubling the costs to $33 billion wouldn’t begin to cover losses in agriculture, electric power generation and shipping. (CapitalPress, 2/11).

What in the world is Simpson thinking? Is this a “grand solution,” a Frank Church Wilderness monumental salmon plan? Or did he just “move left” with an idea which reads like it could have been written by the Sierra Club or The Idaho Statesman? Or is there some notion that without this, the new Biden `administration would go even further to “protect” the species?

Simpson’s plan is a classic “let’s-throw-more-money-at-it” so-called solution to an issue which is really beyond Idaho’s control. Salmon runs have been declining for decades all along the coast, from Mexico to Alaska. Even the best science doesn’t have the complete answer, which may lie in changing ocean patterns as well as natural predation by orcas and sea lions. These were once considered “endangered” but now inhabit the lower Columbia River system in growing numbers.

Simpson’s open-money-spigot idea seems right out of traditional liberal thinking on many issues. Poverty? Do a Great Society. Transportation? How about a billion-dollar national rail system, which every liberal loves but no one rides? Iran nuclear threat? Buy them off with a planeload or two of Obama-Biden taxpayer cash. Climate change? Biden proposes to fix it by eliminating all fossil fuels and imposing forced energy from “alternatives” which will cost ratepayers more. (PS. How did the wind turbines do this past week in Texas’ cold snap? They froze. WSJ, 2/14)
What’s next? Put a fence and road blocks around all of Central Idaho to keep people out of “restored” grizzly bear habitat? How about depopulating the Mountain West to make way for DNA-reconstructed wooly mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, the Hagerman horse and ancient ground sloths?

Saving endangered species is the coin of the realm for ecos; there’s hardly a Spotted Owl, Bruneau snail or Sweetspot Peppergrass which can avoid the ‘protections” of federal designation, all at the expense of local communities and livelihoods.

Yet, in the case of the salmon, they are almost all hatchery-raised now, with DNA that’s the same as the “wild” ones. Effectively, there aren’t many ‘wild” salmon in Idaho to be saved. When the history of America is written for the past 50 years, they will surely wonder how these “movements” took hold and will see such liberal fanaticism for what it is and for what it costs us all.

Amazingly, Simpson’s plan virtually ignores tribal netting, which takes tens of thousands of fish from the Columbia and which are then sold out of pickup trucks along the highways. If the salmon are so “sacred” why is this happening? Are we afraid of being called woke salmon racists if we address the Indian take?

The proposal makes a true assertion that it would be extremely expensive, but suggests that’s ok, because it’s only one to two percent of an anticipated Biden multi-trillion-dollar proposal on energy, transportation, an overall “green” agenda from the Biden-istas. It’s a plan to tap the coming Biden open spending account.

Simpson’s plan, in effect, is an effort to pander to various interest groups with big blobs of federal credit card debt, a few hundred million for agriculture, a few hundred million more to “save” energy generation, a few hundred million more to make good Lewiston’s loss of its port, a few hundred million more to enhance alternative energy research, on and on.

His website on the plan effectively dismisses the economics of these broad categories in fuzzy, blissful paragraphs, focusing rather on the “opportunity” before us. Yea, sure. That’s why Idahoans already are giving the plan mostly negative reviews, from the Farm Bureau to the Idaho Water Users Association, who know it would be Idaho’s water that flushes the salmon downstream.

Simpson has long served Idaho well in Congress, but this “Save the Salmon” concept is fundamentally out-of-touch with Idaho interests. As a political concept, it’s Dead on Arrival. Simpson should re-think it – entirely.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho Across Generations.” He can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com
 

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