The manager of Grand Coulee Dam is baking like a salmon for an injudicious remark about the threatened fish.
Dam manager Steve Clark was addressing the Stevens County Federal Lands Advisory Committee last week when someone asked about salmon recovery plans.
“I have opinions, but they are only my own and they are not based on biological science,” Clark said. “I’m an engineer.
“One of my opinions used to be, ‘Let’s kill ‘em off and get rid of the problem so we can go on with life.’ That didn’t go very far.”
As several people chuckled, Clark quickly added, “I’m being facetious here. I hope there’s nobody taking notes.”
Actually, there was.
Inchelium, Wash., resident Lou Stone, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, was in the audience and declared himself “quite offended.” Stone is a former tribal council member who has run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature and is active in the Democratic Party.
Clark immediately apologized and said his attempt at humor “was in poor taste.”
Committee member Jim Perkins of Colville said he also was offended, but no other committee member complained. Perkins noted that his father was a Colville tribal member who designed some of the fish ladders on Columbia River dams.
Clark apologized again and said he didn’t intend the remark to be taken seriously.
“I stepped in it and I will try and get out of it gracefully, but you may not let me do that,” Clark said. “I don’t blame you if you don’t.”
Perkins accepted the apology, but Stone didn’t and has registered complaints with the White House and the U.S. Justice Department.
“I considered it a cultural attack,” Stone said after the meeting. “My ancestors used and protected the fish for thousands of years and in just a couple hundred years, outsiders have almost managed to destroy the salmon.”
Stone said he was particularly concerned about Clark’s remark because of the audience. With the exception of Perkins, Stone thinks all nine members of the committee are proponents of private property rights who oppose the Endangered Species Act and the federal government in general.
One committee member subscribes to racist Christian Identity views and belongs to a Stevens County group called the “unorganized militia,” Stone charged.
County commissioners set up the committee last year to screen land-use information federal agencies agreed to share under cooperative agreements. Commissioners negotiated the agreements after being pressured to pass an ordinance asserting control over federal land decisions.
Most committee members represent conservative but mainstream views.
Clark said he knew little about the committee and wasn’t trying to play to a conservative audience.
Instead, he said, “I was trying to represent the spectrum of (salmon) options that people have looked at, from doing nothing to removing all the dams.”
Count on him to use different examples in the future, Clark added.