The biggest news this week in Boise occurred on Friday. U. S. Rep. Mike Simpson surprised us all with his announcement of his support to breach the four upper dams on the Snake River in an effort to save the historical salmon runs. Breaching the dams has been a hot topic for years but it has never had support from Republicans. If the dams are breached, the hope is that salmon will return to historical levels and millions will return to Idaho. I’m not sure what Congressmen Simpson is thinking. The current science suggests that the biggest issue is in the ocean and not in the river system. Breaching the dams adds to the cost of electricity, increases the cost of moving wheat and timber from Idaho to the Pacific Ocean, and adds to traffic congestion from Northern Idaho south to the Boise area and west to the Pacific coast. Simpson’s plan calls for $36 billion to offset the cost of breaching the dams.
Dam breaching has been on the radar for years. I served on the IDFG Commission in 1999. There were fish biologists who suggested breaching dams back then and their careers were ruined for even publicly suggesting such a thing. My concern is if the dams are breached and the salmon don’t return, then what? It will be much easier to take out dams than it will be to rebuild them if the experiment doesn’t work. I don’t know if we could ever get enough public support to rebuild the dams in the river. President Biden has made a huge commitment to green energy. Hydro power is the greenest of the green energy and it continues to be produced when there is no wind or when the sun doesn’t shine to make solar power. Water is always going to run down hill!
I have heard a lot of speculation what Rep. Simpson’s announcement means. I have no inside knowledge, but I will share a couple of thoughts that I have heard here in the halls of the Capitol. First, does this mean that that Rep. Simpson has no plans to run in the next election? Second, Rep. Simpson believes that President Biden will order the dams breached and Idaho will get nothing in return so the Congressman is trying to get the most he can for Idaho. I’m sure that we will hear more in the future, but in the short term, it has given us plenty to talk about besides limiting the Governor’s power or doing away with crowd restrictions issued by the Department of Health and Welfare.
Last week I mentioned that I was working on some legislation to deal with cloud seeding and the increased precipitation that may result from the cloud seeding. I felt that it would be simple to incorporate Utah law into Idaho Statute. After 13 years, I should have known better! Nothing is easy when we are talking about water in Idaho. I now have the draft circulating amongst the Idaho water attorneys and they all have to get their fingerprints on the draft. I am still hopeful that we can reach some consensus and bring some legislation forward this year.
On Wednesday the house voted on HCR 5. This Concurrent Resolution would have eliminated the 50-person limit on crowds in Idaho. The driving force was to increase attendance at the Girls Basketball tourney, the State wrestling tournament, and the Boys State Basketball Tournament. For HCR 5 to be effective, it will have to pass both the House and the Senate. There is considerable debate that the Legislature can overrule the health order on crowd size. If HCR 5 does void the order on crowd size, it is clear that a new order could be issued the next day and we would still have the limitation on crowd size. In reality, I don’t believe that these HCR’s will have the desired outcome we all want. There is a lot of finger pointing but in the end the crowds that are going to be admitted to the Idaho Center are lower than the threshold of 40% of the fire marshal’s occupancy for the building that the Governor is now allowing.
The highlight of the week happened Wednesday from 12:45 until 1:15. Sen. Harris and I had the opportunity to read a book to the three fourth grade classes in Soda Springs. We were connected by a Zoom link. It is amazing what we can now accomplish using this new technology. The book was about kindness. After we finished the book, the students ask us questions concerning how we interact with each other here in the Capitol and what role kindness had in our work. It was interesting to have dialog with those students.
It is an honor to represent you in the legislature and please feel free to contact me at 208-547-7447 or firstname.lastname@example.org