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Restoring the Lower Snake River

Dear Senators Murray and Cantwell:

Open letter asks Senators to bring together stakeholders to craft a long-term solution for salmon and the region's economy


Spokane, Wash. - More than 50 business owners and community leaders in eastern Washington and bordering Idaho towns wrote to U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on Tuesday urging their leadership in solving the Columbia salmon crisis. The open letter appears as a full-page ad in yesterday's Spokane-based Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Read the letter from business owners and community leaders.

Audio story from Public News Service.

Check out Working Snake River for Washington.

The business owners and community leaders want the senators to bring together all interests - farmers, fishermen, energy users, business owners and local leaders-to craft a long term science -based and economically viable salmon restoration plan. They acknowledge the historic political tensions surrounding the salmon issue, but note the enormous economic opportunity for the region in forging a long-term solution.

"Healthy rivers, fisheries and outdoor recreation opportunities are key to Mountain Gear's bottom line," said Mountain Gear CEO Paul Fish. "And not just in terms of creating a market for the outdoor products we sell. Spokane's proximity to hiking, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities gives our city a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting talented people to work for our company, and is an incentive for our kids to want to return home after college. At the very least we need to have an informed discussion on how restoring our rivers and fisheries can economically benefit the region."

"I look forward to working with our senators to begin an open and informed discussion on what a real salmon restoration plan could bring to the Inland Northwest," said Chris Kopczynski, owner of Kop Construction, a Spokane-based construction company. "It's not just about the economic benefits of recovering the Snake River basin's wild salmon or the moral imperative we have to save this one-of-a-kind species. The discussion needs to look at the transportation and energy infrastructure that will make the Inland Northwest economically competitive in the coming decades. Will that be barge traffic on the lower Snake or a modern rail system? A bigger reliance on clean energy sources? We have an opportunity to build a plan that solves more than just the salmon problem."

"There are serious consequences for our region if we continue to drag our feet in resolving the salmon crisis," said Dustin Aherin, a third-generation Lewiston-Clarkston resident and chair of Citizens for Progress. "Uncertainty is hurting Clarkston and Lewiston. We can't develop our urban waterfront, make sound transportation decisions or plan for the future until we know the long-term future of the lower Snake River dams. I look forward to working with Sens. Murray and Cantwell to craft a solution that works for salmon and works for my home town."

The past decade has witnessed a sometimes bitter political struggle, often cast as purely a conflict between salmon advocates and river users. The letter signers - a cross section of the region's business and community leaders - seek a more cooperative approach to assuring salmon recovery and addressing the issue of the lower Snake River dams.

Thirteen salmon and steelhead stocks remain listed under the Endangered Species Act despite 20 years of litigation and billions of dollars spent on failed restoration efforts. "Our coalition of fishing businesses and conservation groups recognize that for salmon restoration to move forward it must work for our farmers, shippers, energy users and riverside towns," said Sam Mace, Inland Northwest Director for Save Our Wild Salmon. "We are committed to working with fellow stakeholders and our elected leaders to craft a solution that restores our salmon and benefits the Inland Northwest."

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