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Republicans criticize spill of dam water to help salmon

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Republican Congress members from the Pacific Northwest are upset with a federal judge’s order to spill water from four Snake River dams to help speed migrating salmon to the Pacific Ocean.

They say the water could be saved for other uses and are denouncing the spill, which began April 3, and a push by environmentalists to remove the four dams to increase wild salmon runs.

“Dams and fish can co-exist,” Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, whose Washington districts include the dams, said in a joint statement.

The four dams, built in the 1960s and 1970s, provide hydropower, flood control, navigation, irrigation and recreation benefits, supporters say. But the giant dams are also blamed for killing wild salmon, an iconic species in the Northwest.

McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse have introduced a bill that would prevent any changes in dam operations until 2022. The measure was co-sponsored by Republican House members from Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada, along with Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

It passed the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday and heads to the floor in coming weeks.

“Without Snake and Columbia river dams and the many benefits they provide, life in central Washington as we know it would be unrecognizable,” Newhouse said.

Hydropower is the Northwest’s lifeblood, said Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho.

“For a liberal judge to ignore the broad scientific consensus of the federal government and the states of Idaho, Washington and Montana is unconscionable and must be stopped,” he said.

The increased spill will cost some $40 million in lost power sales, and could hurt transportation and barging on the rivers, flood control and irrigation systems, Republicans contend.

But Democrats argue studies of the dams, including whether they should be removed, must go forward.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington recently sent a letter to House and Senate leadership saying the river’s management must include salmon recovery.

The letter criticized the bill to prevent changes in dam operations. It was signed by Murray and Democratic Reps. Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal of Washington.

“The Columbia and Snake River system is essential to the Pacific Northwest’s culture, environment and economy,” the letter said.

The four dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite — span the Snake River between the Washington cities of Pasco and Pullman. Together they produce about 4 percent of the region’s electricity.

Replacing that power would require the equivalent of two nuclear power plants, Labrador said.

Environmental groups disagree.

A new study contends other renewable sources could replace the dams’ power for a little more than $1 a month for the average Northwest household.

The study “explodes the myth that we can’t have both wild salmon and clean energy,” said Joseph Bogaard, director of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. “We can remove these four deadly dams, restore one of our nation’s great salmon rivers and improve the Northwest’s energy system.”

But supporters of the dams say wind and solar power are too unreliable to replace the lost hydropower.

The Columbia-Snake river system holds more than a dozen imperiled salmon runs, and the federal government has spent more than $15 billion since 1978 on efforts to save the fish.

But those efforts have pushed wild salmon, orca and other fish and wildlife populations closer to extinction, Bogaard said.

Removing the dams is the only way to save the salmon runs, conservation groups say.

“Salmon are in desperate need of help now,” Earthjustice attorney Todd True said.

Advocates for fishermen also hailed the decision to increase spill, saying it will produce larger adult salmon returns.

Proposals to remove the four dams have percolated in the Northwest for decades, and have devolved into a largely partisan issue with Democrats generally on the side of the fish and Republicans for keeping the dams.

The latest skirmish began in March 2017, when U.S. District Judge Michael Simon of Portland, Oregon, ordered the dams to increase spill beginning this spring. Federal agencies have estimated increasing spill until mid-June will cost electric ratepayers $40 million in lost power revenues in 2018 alone.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in early February rejected an appeal of Simon’s order.

The dams operate under a plan created by a collaboration of federal agencies, states and tribes during the Obama administration to protect salmon.

But Simon found it does not do enough. He ruled a new environmental study is needed, and it must consider the option of removing the dams. Simon also wrote that wild salmon were in a “precarious” state.

That was disputed by Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, a group that includes farmers, utilities, ports and businesses.

Flores contended spilling so much water from the dams injects high levels of gas into the water, which can kill fish. The churning water at the dams also can prevent the next generation of returning salmon from accessing fish ladders and keep them from reaching spawning streams, she said.

“It’s a bad plan that will cost families and businesses, do little to help, and may even harm protected salmon, and add tons of carbon to our air,” Flores said of the spill. “We shouldn’t throw good money at a bad plan.”

Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press 

Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River on Wednesday near Almota, Wash.

Airline rolls out effort to speak Hawaiian on flights

Airline rolls out effort to speak Hawaiian on flights

HONOLULU (AP) — Passengers flying Hawaiian Airlines may soon get a complimentary language lesson as the company amplifies efforts to preserve traditional Hawaiian by incorporating it into everyday business.

Cabin announcements and crew instructions were given in English and the traditional Hawaiian language on a Las Vegas-bound flight on Friday, marking the first time the language was utilized on a flight headed to the mainland, Hawaii News Now reported .

The mission is for flight attendants to provide a “one-of-a-kind cultural experience by engaging with guests in both olelo Hawai’i and English” as preservation of the Hawaiian language continues to be a hot issue on the islands, the company said via email.

The idea was tested earlier this month on four flights to Hilo.

“The initiative is an extension of the airline’s commitment to honor and share our Islands’ unique culture with guests visiting Hawai’i,” a company spokesperson said.

Both the in-flight announcements and announcements at the gate were done in Hawaiian.

Dr. Larry Kimura, who is known to many as “the grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization,” was a special guest on the flight, according to Hawaiian Airlines.

Hawaiian Airlines said it hopes to expand and formalize the language immersion program in the coming months.

Idaho governor pardons former drug offender

BOISE — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has pardoned an Idaho drug offender whose methamphetamine and heroin use led him to prison but has since been able to get his life back on track.

Otter’s office said Thursday that he had pardoned Larry Jasper, 49, in February — which was not immediately announced at the time. This is the third time in Otter’s 12-year tenure as governor that the Republican has used his authority to grant clemency to an offender.

Drug dealing, along with murder and rape, are among seven offenses in Idaho that require the governor to approve a pardon.

Otter acted on the recommendation of the Idaho Commission for Pardons and Parole.

Jasper was convicted of having controlled substances in Payette County in 2004. He served prison time and completed parole, where he then went on to study clinical psychology at George Fox University in Oregon. He earned a doctoral degree in May 2016.

“My end goal, my hope is to become a licensed psychologist in the state of Oregon. The probability of me attaining my license with a felony record is very low,” Jasper wrote in his application to the commission. “I am seeking a pardon in order to achieve my goal of becoming a licensed professional and to permanently break the destructive cycle of my past.”

Sandy Jones, the Commission’s executive director, says Jasper’s case can provide an important lesson for others.

“Mr. Jasper is an example of why a pardon process exists in Idaho,” Jones said in a statement. “He demonstrates how rehabilitation can and should work. He has worked hard to change his life through recovery and education, and the commissioners are pleased to support his pardon.”

Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian said the two-month delay in the public finding out about the pardon was due to an oversight by a staffer inside the governor’s office and was not intentional. A pardon does not expunge criminal charges, convictions and sentences from an individual’s record, but it does provide official acknowledgement of rehabilitation and change. A pardon can be beneficial for providing reassurances to potential employers and other opportunities for former offenders.

Otter previously pardoned two offenders in 2013. The two men were also paroled from drug convictions and went on to turn their lives and careers around.

For Jones, he said he now wants to help others find their own path to recovery and success.

“My dedication to the treatment of persons suffering from addictions actually helps contribute to my sobriety, giving back by helping others,” Jones said. “I find that the chemical dependency population is very transparent to me, and I have had the opportunity to both treat and conduct research to enhance knowledge and improve the treatment of addiction.”