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Don't give up fish for pennies

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Dear HCN,

In my 40-odd years of fishing for trout, steelhead and salmon, I have always had reason to smile, even on bad days. But this year, Idaho fishermen have nothing to be happy about. We have been sold out for $1.23 per year.

The National Marine Fisheries Service newest plan cowers to the false claim that we must choose between people or fish, and sets a course to finish Idaho's steelhead and salmon.

The plan relies mainly on mother nature and the largesse of Idaho's water users to compensate for the massive damage done by the four federal hydropower dams in Washington state.

It fiddles a bit with hydropower projects on the Columbia, but ignores the federal dams and the transport barges on the Lower Snake that are so deadly for Idaho's fish. The impact of the federal dams below Lewiston is so severe that Idaho fishermen might as well blow the money set aside for Steelhead tags on bubble gum.

Those four dams - Lower Granite, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Ice Harbor - produce only $1.23 per year worth of electricity for the average Idaho Power residential customer. That's 1/500th of the juice used by 70 percent of Idaho's population! And only 1.3 percent of Washington Water Power's juice, 0.35 percent of Utah Power's, and 12.5 percent of BPA's.

Why is our congressional delegation, led by Sen. Larry Craig, allowing the feds to do this to Idaho? Gov. Batt is an intelligent, honorable man, but he is apparently hearing only from downstream lobbyists. I am angry, and sad. This year is the last great outmigration of young salmon and steelhead from Idaho to the Pacific, and it's a dark time for fishermen.

It's a good time to speak out. I am mailing my $1.23 today in an envelope to join me.

Tom Stuart

Boise, Idaho

The writer is a Stanley, Idaho, businessman and a member of several environmental groups, including Idaho Rivers United.

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