THE BATTLE FOR A PIECE OF THE ROCK
By PAUL KOBERSTEIN and KEVIN BELL
Picture this: Thanks to decisive action by the governors of the four Northwestern states, the financial near-meltdown from the region's ill-fated nuclear energy fiasco is just a quickly fading memory. With a renewed commitment to restoring wild salmon to their native home on the Columbia and Snake rivers, salmon are returning tO Idaho in huge numbers. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year in unproductive transfers and subsidies to obsolete aluminum smelters and corporate agriculture have been eliminated, pumping new money into the regional economy while keeping power rates low for residential electricity customers. The Inland Empire of Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon is experiencing an economic renaissance as a shining example of a sustainable economy that can support people and wild places at the same time.
Or maybe this: subsidy-bloated special interests that suckered the federal government into holding the bag on $7 billion in dead and dying nuclear power plants have slipped out the back door, taking anything of value on the Columbia with them. The genome cleansing of wild salmon has moved down into them mainstem Columbia, leaving a sterile, slightly radioactive ghost of what used to be one of the great rivers of the world. The regional power grid that catapulted the Pacific Northwest into the modern era is on the chopping block, on sale for pennies on the dollar to the highest bidder.