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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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County leaders speak out against Simpson’s proposal

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 23, 2021

By Kerri Sandaine Lewiston Tribune

ASOTIN – Five southeastern Washington counties are “pushing back” against an Idaho congressman’s proposal to breach the four dams on the lower Snake River in an effort to save endangered salmon.

At Monday’s commission meeting, Commissioner Brian Shinn presented a letter to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson that was signed by commissioners from Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, Whitman and Walla Walla counties last week. County commissioners throughout this region have repeatedly come out in formal opposition to efforts to remove the dams, he said.

“The reason for our opposition is simple: There is no scientific guarantee, certainly no scientific consensus, that dam breaching/removal of those four dams will significantly improve the recovery process,” according to the letter.

In addition to Shinn, the letter to Simpson was signed by Garfield County Commissioner Justin Dixon, Whitman County Commissioner Michael Largent, Columbia County Commissioner Marty Hall and Walla Walla County Commissioner Todd Kimball. The five commissioners also serve on the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board, but that board is not taking a formal position on the issue.

The proposal would remove significant energy sources and increase carbon output when trains and trucks are used to transport products, Shinn said in the letter. “Removing constant, non-polluting power in hopes of fish recovery does not make sense.”

“We firmly stand in opposition to dam removal and the resulting economic destruction. We encourage your support of fish recovery through responsible, proactive fish policy that gives equal weight to the people you serve.”

During an update on the new Asotin County Jail at Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Chuck Whitman said the concept design phase of the $13.7 million project has been completed. The jail will have approximately 122 beds, with the ability to expand to 250.

Whitman said the architect worked with a civil engineer and the Clarkston Public Works director to determine what procedure is required at the Port Drive and 14th Street site, which is zoned “heavy industrial.” Based on their research and discussions, a zone text amendment request has been submitted to the city of Clarkston, he said.

It could take four to six months for a City Council decision, and public meetings will be held during the process.

“The cooperation by the public works director for the city of Clarkston has been appreciated and helpful,” Whitman said.

More information and updates are available online at the Asotin County Sheriff’s website, Whitman said. The public can also call the commissioners with questions.

In other county business, a conditional-use permit to construct a digital billboard near the Clarkston Heights branch of the Asotin County Library was approved with a 3-0 vote. The billboard will be located at 2036 Fourth Ave.

The library received a grant from Avista for the project, which will be similar to other Avista billboards erected in rural areas of Idaho and Rockford, Wash. The intent is to help notify the public about community events, officials said, and no private advertising will be displayed.

Steve Becker, landfill manager, was given permission to fill a new position to help oversee wood waste disposal. Manning the site and shifting the entrance to that area of the landfill will help reduce traffic and use of the scales for wood debris, Becker said.

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