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Guest Op-Ed: Congress can’t give up on salmon recovery

Salmon have filled the rivers of the Pacific Northwest for millenia.

But in recent decades, Northwest salmon populations have plummeted. Biologists estimate about 1.3 million fish will enter the Columbia River this year to begin their upriver journey to spawn. This is higher than last year, but just over half the 10-year average of 2.2 million, and a fraction of historic returns.

Some of those fish will make their way through all eight of the Columbia and Snake River dams to the Wallowa River. Twenty years ago, getting there would have only been half the challenge. Upon arrival, they would have found few suitable places to hold and spawn. Today, thanks to the efforts of many, there are numerous miles of restored habitat in the Wallowa, Lostine and Imnaha River watersheds.

That restoration will continue this summer with work to improve spawning habitat for Chinook and steelhead on a 1,300-foot stretch of the Wallowa River. That project recently received funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), and most of the funding for the project came from the federal Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund.

OWEB receives funding from Oregon Lottery dollars, salmon license plate revenues and the federal salmon recovery fund. Congress started the recovery fund in 2000 precisely because of plummeting salmon populations. In Oregon, the fund makes up about a quarter of OWEB’s budget.

Since 2000, the fund has invested nearly $237 million in Oregon to support salmon recovery projects. Leveraged with the state’s money, OWEB has been able to invest nearly $603 million on habitat protection and restoration for salmon and steelhead species throughout the state. The funds are granted to tribes and states doing worthy projects in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

That money has been put to good use, but for the third straight year, the administration proposed eliminating it entirely from the federal budget. The last two years, Congress has successfully restored funding. We urge Oregon’s congressional delegation to find a way to do it again.

Salmon are a critical part of our watershed, economy and culture. We need to continue to work for their future. Now is not the time to give up on salmon recovery.

Ginger Berry (left), winner of district, and state competition of “Women’s Suffrage” paper for the Daughters of the American Revolution, JoAnn Smith of Island City (Middle) presenting award, Hannah Kate Sheehy (right) receiving 2nd place. Berry won $50 for district with her essay and $100 for state. She is now moving on to regionals which is Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Students studied the 1919-1920 movement of women’s rights and wrote essays of 600-1000 words.

Other views | Local solutions from local sources

Oregon’s housing problems are statewide. They’re being felt in relatively small upper Willamette Valley communities and in Malheur County in far Eastern Oregon. Two bills in the Legislature take very different approaches to the problem, and lawmakers should give them a chance.

House Bill 2997 was sponsored by state Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, on behalf of the McMinnville Affordable Housing Task Force. If approved, it would allow the city to change its inclusionary zoning laws to require that 5% of dwellings in new housing developments be affordable to those whose income is 80% of the median family income in the county. It would increase workforce housing in the community.

The bill is carefully written to apply to McMinnville only.

House Bill 2456, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, would allow housing development on up to 200 acres within the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region, an area that includes land close to the Idaho border in Malheur County. Development could occur only on marginal farmland, on 2-acre parcels. While it is not targeted at any particular income group, expanding the stock of available housing, as this bill would allow, should help ease a housing crunch there. It could expand the county’s housing stock by as many as 100 homes.

Each one of the measures proposes things that under current land use regulations are not allowed in Oregon, but both would increase available housing in their communities. Too, the measures might not be desirable or workable in every city and county in Oregon, but supporters believe they’ll work in McMinnville and Malheur County.

Lawmakers should approve both measures. Giving local communities the power to come up with local solutions to their housing problems can help ensure those solutions will work.

Other views | Too much being asked of everyday heroes

When a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in California, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye jumped between the shooter and the rabbi. She was killed, but the rabbi credits her with saving his life.

When another man started shooting inside a classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 21-year-old Riley Howell charged him. Shot three times, he died. Authorities said he stopped what would have been a far worse massacre.

And when gunfire broke out Tuesday at a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school in Colorado, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at the shooter. He was fatally shot. Witnesses said his actions gave other students a chance to safely get away.

We mourn the loss of these people. They were heroes. Faced with the unimaginable, they were unshrinking. But the fact that people going about the business of everyday life — saying a prayer, giving a college presentation, sitting in English class — feel compelled to throw themselves into the line of fire puts to shame our so-called political leaders, who don’t even have the guts to pass sensible gun reform.

Rather than take proactive measures aimed at preventing shootings (such as New Zealand’s swift move to ban assault weapons), the United States operates on the seeming assumption that mass killing is inescapable, so citizens should learn how to best react. “Run, hide and fight” was the message blasted out to the UNC Charlotte campus when a gunman went on a rampage last month. “I heard a gunshot,” said Makai Dixon, a second-grader at STEM School Highlands Ranch who knew exactly what to listen for because of the drills and lockdowns that are now a core curriculum of U.S. schools. “I have to believe that the quick response of officers that got inside that school helped save lives,” said Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock of Tuesday’s events, which occurred not far from the site of the Columbine school shooting of two decades ago.

It’s good that lessons have been learned in dealing with emergencies. Much credit and gratitude go to the first responders who don’t flinch in racing toward danger. But they — and people such as Lori Gilbert Kaye, Riley Howell, Kendrick Castillo and Makai Dixon — deserve better. They deserve lawmakers who put their safety ahead of gun lobby interests and are willing to enact common-sense gun-control measures — such as universal background checks, a ban on assault rifles and safe storage requirements. That will take courage, but not nearly so much as what we’ve seen from those unelected Americans.

Letter: Support for James Nash

Dear James,

This is to let you know that there are many folks out here who support you and admire your willingness to work for your community and the natural environment. Those of us who know you, your family, and your record of service and achievement, hope that you will not let small-minded politics discourage you from pursuing future service in our behalf.

The world is made of those who care, and those who could care less -- Those who do, and those who talk -- Those who are winners, and those who don’t even suit up. Thank you for being the former in all cases.

Let us know if we can help you in any way.

Mike and Linda Koloski