As of Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I am concerned that the Idaho County Commission may be losing touch. Case in point is the commissioners’ sudden interest in historic preservation. Specifically, they have decided to object to the recent Crooked River restoration proposal, by the USFS, because of historic preservation concerns. This is a project that would provide more than $2 million, already earmarked by the Bonneville Power Administration, in job opportunities, equipment time and miscellaneous purchases to this area. Are the commissioners choosing historic preservation over jobs? Is this Idaho County or someplace in western Washington?
The March 18 edition of the Free Press reported that the commissioners decided to cast their lot with a small number of local folks from the Crooked River area who, understandably, wish to preserve Crooked River as it is. Certainly, if preserved, the area would be a superb monument to the legacy of devastation caused by past mining. It would serve to keep the memory fresh and alive in the minds of future generations as they wonder what happened to the fish that once lived there or how it might have looked prior to the disturbance.
However, there are much better and grander examples of the permanent impacts of dredge mining right here in Idaho County. Near Warren, for example, there are hundreds and hundreds of acres of sterile dredge tailings that are clearly visible on satellite photos. Last time I was there, an old dredge remnant could still be found entombed in the last hole it dug. Why not be satisfied to preserve that one outstanding example? Do we really need more?
Lower Crooked River has the potential to be excellent habitat for trout, steelhead and salmon. The proposed restoration project has been rigorously vetted by the Northwest Power Planning Council for its potential contribution to overall habitat restoration goals in the Snake River basin as part of the required compensation for fish losses due to the hydroelectric system.
Really commissioners… preserving a monument to devastation at the expense of commerce, jobs and improvements to fish habitat that will benefit future generations… is this your legacy?