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TURNABOUT: Norm Semanko...Idahoans are united, against breaching dams

Lewiston Tribune by Norm Semanko. Semanko, of Boise, is executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association and also sits on the Family Farm Alliance board of directors. 12/13/06

Jim Fisher's recent epistle from on high about where the majority of Idahoans stand on dam breaching [editorial, Nov. 24] reflects his usual rich blending of opinion but is completely devoid of certain basic truths.

Fisher has somehow convinced himself, and wants to convince you, that Idahoans do not really have a clear position on the issue of breaching; that there is no clear consensus of opinion.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just consider the facts.

For starters, breaching is opposed by: Idaho's former, present and soon-to-be governors plus the elected political and legislative leadership of the state; by a compelling majority of the members of the Idaho Legislature; by all four elected members of the Idaho congressional delegation and Idaho's soon-to-be member of Congress; by virtually every agricultural, irrigation, water user and industry group in the state; by organizations representing practically every city and county in the state; and by municipal and commercial water providers around the state.

Oh, and did I mention the 2006 Boise State University public opinion survey that showed 42.7 percent of Idahoans oppose breaching while 35.3 percent support it. On the same question but with the caveat that the loss of barging and hydroelectricity would be replaced with alternatives at a similar price, 72.3 percent of Idahoans oppose breaching. I should also note that the 2006 BSU survey was the sixth consecutive time since 1999 that the survey found more Idahoans oppose dam breaching than support it.

Fisher also needs to quit playing cheerleader for environmental groups whose agendas do not reflect the majority and which employ strategies best described as a series of cleverly disguised shell games.

Idaho Rivers United may be based in Idaho, but they do not reflect the prevailing will of the people of this state. These groups openly admit they use legal tactics to get activist federal judges to threaten to take the state's crucial irrigation water for flow augmentation, a threat they can use as leverage to force irrigators to support dam breaching.

As for the legitimacy of the Coalition for Idaho Water: Its membership is drawn from more than 50 diverse segments of mainstream Idaho life from every regional area of the state. One coalition partner alone -- the Idaho Water Users Association -- represents approximately 300 irrigation districts and canal companies, agribusinesses, public water supply organizations, professional firms and individuals from around the state. And IWUA is only one of more than 50 coalition partners.

Other partners include the Idaho associations of cities and counties, local members like the Port of Lewiston and Lewiston-Clarkston Chamber of Commerce Natural Resources Committee, the Idaho Food Processors Association, the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Grain Producers Association, the Idaho Aquaculture Association, the Potato Growers of Idaho and the Idaho Cattle Association.

Trying to suggest the coalition represents only southern Idaho irrigators is as ludicrous as claiming American Rivers and Idaho Rivers United reflect mainstream Idahoans.

Make no mistake about it: the coalition's objectives and its strategies align perfectly with the clearly demonstrated will of a huge majority of Idahoans.

Fisher may not agree with or even like the fact that a clear majority of Idahoans oppose dam breaching. But ignoring facts so as to distort and misrepresent the established will of the majority is simply wrong. Idahoans are not ambiguous or divided on the issue of dam breaching: They are dead set against it.


Semanko, of Boise, is executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association.


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