By Marty Trillhaase
December 9, 2016
JEERS ... to Darryl Olsen and his Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association.
They want it all. They want the water stored up behind the four lower Snake River dams to irrigate their produce. And they want the federal government to arbitrarily condemn the Snake River salmon and steelhead runs to extinction - if that's what it takes to maintain their economic interests.
As the Tribune's Eric Barker reported Wednesday, Olsen and the irrigators want President-elect Donald Trump to convene the "God Squad" to circumvent the courts, the Endangered Species Act and the nation's treaty obligations.
A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the federal government to come up with a plan to restore fish runs decimated by the four dams on the lower Snake - up to and including breaching the structures. Also underway is an Environmental Impact Statement, which ought to allow taxpayers to discern whether the dams are a boondoggle.
But rather than wait for the answers, irrigators are betting on Trump's anti-environmental campaign rhetoric. They want him to convene the administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, a representative of the state (presumably Washington), and the secretaries of Agriculture, Interior and the Army.
Under a 1978 law, if five of the seven agree, the fish would be allowed to go extinct - in order to maintain the dams.
This is not about a snail darter, silvery minnow or even the spotted owl. In many ways, salmon define the Northwest. "God Squad" that species and you undermine the foundation of the region's ecosystem.
To Olsen , businesses that depend on healthy fish runs take a back seat to irrigators.
Empowering a panel of government insiders to rip up treaties guaranteeing the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes access to salmon doesn't seem to bother him, either.
And he's telling the American taxpayer to shut up and stop asking questions.
How would Olsen like it if a hostile federal bureaucracy treated him in such a capricious fashion?