Our Voice: Thumbs up to Hastings and Cantwell, down to golden parachutes

November 18, 2013 

Our Voice: Thumbs up to Hastings and Cantwell, down to golden parachutes

Close the buffet

To the House Committee on Natural Resources for approving the "Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act," which would protect endangered Columbia River salmon from California and Steller Sea Lions.

The bill only addresses sea lions that are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, and killing the worst offenders won't threaten survival of the species. Many of the salmon they prey on are in danger of extinction, however.

During winter and spring, as many as 1,000 California Sea Lions are in the lower Columbia River, and each eats 15-30 pounds of fish per day. Conservative estimates show that sea lions during April and May eat 12,000 to 20,000 fish throughout the Columbia River and its tributaries, according to U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, the bill's sponsor.

"For years, Northwest ratepayers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars every year on measures to protect endangered salmon migrating through the Columbia River dams, only to see a growing number fall prey to aggressive sea lions that wait at the base of the Bonneville Dam and other locations to feast on these fish," Hastings said in a statement.

The status quo is absurd. This common-sense solution deserves full congressional support.

Power to the people

To U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell for securing a commitment from the Obama administration's nominee for the Department of Energy General Counsel that he would respect the Bonneville Power Administration's autonomy.

Under questioning from the Washington Democrat at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, general counsel nominee Steven Croley agreed to "respect the regional control of BPA."

DOE is examining BPA's hiring practices after the DOE's Office of Inspector General found that hundreds of applicants for BPA jobs, including veterans, were discriminated against.

Many in the Northwest fear the investigation could lead to DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., assuming more control over BPA. That would be a terrible outcome for the Northwest. Regional control of the agency has been a boon to consumers and businesses here.

Soft landings

To the West Richland City Council for creating generous severance packages for four city staff members worried about their job because of concerns raised during the mayoral election.

The police chief and directors for public works, finance and community and economic development may now receive up to five months salary and a $100,000 life insurance policy if they are removed without cause.

Mayor Donna Noski said staff members were concerned they would lose their jobs if mayoral candidate Merle Johnson won the election, claiming he said he planned to terminate at least one staffer. Johnson denied making any such statement.

Regardless, four city employees now have a guaranteed severance package that few taxpayers in West Richland enjoy.

It's a benefit that wasn't available to their predecessors either. Noski fired former City Administrator Dave Weiser and requested the resignation of former Police Chief Layne Erdman in 2010 on Noski's first day as mayor. Neither man received a severance package.

Governments ought to be careful about handing out golden parachutes in any case since it smacks of special privileges, but to do so in response to a rumor is especially bad form.

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