What Shall It Be? Clean, Sustainable Power, or Lox and Bagels?

          Last November and December (11/16/08 and 12/2/08 respectively) we blogged about the strange doings in the Pacific Northwest, where environmentalists are demanding that perfectly sound, functioning hydroelectric dams be torn down to make life easier for salmon. Mind you, we have nothing against salmon. In fact we enjoy our gravlachs as much as the next fellow, and would be saddened were it to disappear from grocery shelves. On the other hand, we are daily bombarded with exhortations from the environmentalists who are demanding that we reduce our carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, or else we may find ourselves an endangered species too.

        Obviously, if you are going to tear down hydroelectric dams, you are going to increase carbon dioxide emissions and increase consumption of fossil fuels. Still, the tear-’em-down folks are at it again. Today’s Los Angeles Times reports (Kim Murphy, Dams Could Fall to Save Salmon, May 20, 2009, at p. A17) that in a litigation over protecting the salmon, James A. Redden, the federal judge presiding over that litigation, has written to the parties, raising the issue of whether four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River should be breached to help the salmon. This is no small matter because these dams generate enough elctricity to take care of the needs of Seattle, and they also provide a port in Lewiston, Idaho, that allows the barging of cargoes of grain 140 miles down the river.

         On the third hand, so to speak, federal scientists think that conditions for the salmon can be improved without breaching those dams. But the judge thinks that government scientists are relying improperly “on speculative, uncertain and unidentified tributary and estuary habitat improvement actions to find that threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead are, in fact, trending toward recovery.”

          So it’s back to the drawing board, to do some heavy thinking and come up with a solution that may or may not exist, depending on who you ask. We can’t wait to see how this one turns out. Stay tuned.

An afterthought: Howcum whyizzit that when when it comes to the law of eminent domain, judges proclaim themselves to be incompetent to review the social, engineering or environmental reasons offered by the mavens working for the condemning authority in support of the taking, and explain that such decisions by municipal experts are “well-nigh conclusive,” as the U.S. Supreme Court put in in Berman v. Parker, whereas, when it comes to  environmental cases, the same judges come alive and freely overrule expert technical engineering and planning decisions that often concern subjects on which judges generally lack any background or expertise?