SENATOR WELKER WILL OPPOSE HIGH DAMS ON IDAHO'S FAMOUS CLEARWATER RIVER
When Idaho's Republican Senator Herman Welker arrived in Boise last week it was to attend a funeral. No one expected him to take a stand on one of the nation's hottest conservation issues. But take a stand he did, and for the first time.
The issue, and a painful thorn in the side of people who value the outdoors, is Senate Document 51 in which the Army Corps of Engineers outlines its proposals for dams throughout the Pacific Northwest. Included are two 600-foot-high dams on the North and Middle Forks of the Clearwater, both bitterly contested by conservationists.
According to Document 51, the proposed Bruce's Eddy and Penny Cliffs dams are vital to flood control, but critics emphasize the curious fact that since 1900 there have been only two floods on the Clearwater, contend further that the loss in wildlife values would be severe. Much of the winter range of Idaho's immense Selway elk herd would be flooded. The last unobstructed steelhead trout and salmon spawning area in the Clearwater Drainage would be blocked. And impounded water would back up into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. Low upstream dams, conservationists and sportsmen maintain, will serve the purpose and save the game.
Hearings on Senate Document 51 were scheduled for this month, and many Idahoans, along with state and national organizations, were prepared for a vigorous, but what they privately conceded would be a vain, battle to defeat the Bruce's Eddy and Penny Cliffs projects.
Then Senator Welker attended the funeral, and afterward unexpectedly outlined his views on the Clearwater situation in a talk with OUTDOOR WEEK Correspondent Lea Bacos.
Senator Welker admitted he had been too busy to study Document 51. But if what he heard was indeed true, he could see no necessity for high dams and would go on the record to that effect. Said Welker: "The problem is a most serious one and I intend to give it the most thorough study. An industry such as wildlife in Idaho is a vital resource to my state's economy and to the welfare of my fellow sportsmen." Then, Welker took his stand. "Before the winter range of the Selway elk herd is destroyed, and the run of steelhead and salmon stopped, there had better be a more paramount interest to the public in flood control than I can now see. Especially, when at least in my view flood control can be completely effective with upstream low dams and not high downstream storage dams."
The political facts of life are that Senator Welker stands for re-election this year and that roughly half of Idaho's 600,000 population is actively concerned with hunting and fishing. But, for the most part Idaho is likely to concede that the Senator's interest is sincere and will welcome a powerful voice that could translate despair into triumph.
Josephine and Crip are the only two whooping cranes in captivity. Twenty-eight more exist precariously in the wild. None has been hatched in captivity, but two weeks ago at New Orleans' Audubon Zoo, Josephine laid an egg (OUTDOOR WEEK, May 7). Then, as if that was not enough to send the ornithological world into a swivet, she produced another.