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Originally published Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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"To them, any intervention of the federal government must be a bad thing."

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

All wet

Dam logic: If fish can't swim, then whales can't eat

Editor, The Times:

In "Fish and dams: Tell it to the judge" [Times editorial column, Nov. 30], Lance Dickie expresses skepticism about the link between removing four lower Snake River dams and restoring endangered southern resident killer whales.

Millions of chinook historically returned to the mouth of the Columbia River in the winter months, when these orcas are typically absent from the inland waters. Despite the name "resident," they do not stick around Puget Sound all year. They certainly relied on the abundant runs of salmon that once returned to the mouth of the Columbia, and to this day researchers see those whales feeding at the river mouth.

Unfortunately, they are not finding fish in the numbers they once did. Currently, only 1 percent of the historic runs return to the Columbia/Snake Basin. That drastic decrease in prey availability, especially during winter, helps to explain why the southern residents lost nearly 20 percent of their population between 1995 and 2001.

Scientists say removing four outdated dams on the Snake is the most reliable way to get salmon abundance, which is the surefire (and likely only) way to prevent extinction of the southern resident killer whales.

— Uko Gorter, president, American Cetacean Society-Puget Sound chapter, Kirkland

Fin is just the start

We should all be very thankful for U.S. District Judge James Redden's critical examination of the "extinction by delay" tactic being used by hydro-system operators and federal agencies responsible for management of Columbia and Snake River salmon. It seems there is now only one branch of government willing to stand up for the public good and not cave to expedient politics when it comes to saving these fish.

As global warming bears downs on us, causing storms to get crazier, snowpack to shrink and ecological stresses to mount, I'm reminded that the fate of the salmon is also our fate. The fish have been telling us for a long time now that we have gone too far in our efforts to industrialize the Pacific Northwest. We must let some critical parts of our rivers flow free to give us all a fighting chance to weather the storms ahead.

As the status quo of endless studies and lawsuits grinds on and these fish disappear, the deafening silence of Washington, Oregon and Idaho politicians should not be used as a reason to keep the lower four Snake River dams in place. After all, they are the same people who have been silent as we've suffered through a bogus war in Iraq, eavesdropping on our phone conversations and a sweeping attack on our environmental laws.

— Alex Uber, La Conner

Antediluvian mindset

Regarding "Bigger floodplain, bigger worries" [page one, Nov. 29]: If an area stands a reasonable chance of being completely flooded every 10 to 20 years, then it is the value of the property that should be adjusted, not FEMA's appropriate management plan. The article could be rewritten to say, "FEMA has taken action to prevent flood-related catastrophic losses to property owners in several floodplains around the Puget Sound." And the revision is no more "dramatic" than the river's winding course and basic understanding of regional topography.

I can only suspect that the writers are of the right-wing anti-tax mindset, which has our country's infrastructure in tatters. To them, any intervention of the federal government must be a bad thing. I say kudos to FEMA for limiting development in these areas, so that I and other taxpayers don't have to bail out these property owners when their land floods.

— Daniel J. Doran, Seattle

Stuck in the mud

Monday morning I watched local news coverage specifically to observe the damage done by the high rainfall, which was preceded by snow. [See "Storm drenches region; rescuers 'overwhelmed,' " page one, Dec. 4.] As usual, reporters talked about 3 feet of standing water in roadways, school closures and horrendous traffic problems.

What I would like to see is someone discussing how Puget Sound is affected by this type of weather event.

Increased development creates more impermeable surfaces, which causes more runoff than our storm systems can currently handle. This causes multiple problems besides a slowed commute. Puget Sound health is threatened by storm flows and pollutants carried by storm water.

There are solutions to these problems, including: retention gardens, rainwater harvesting, low-impact development, green roofs, permeable concrete and preserving green spaces.

— Gabriel LaValle, Lynnwood

A dry passage

"Judge tosses Hague's DUI breath test" [page one, Nov. 29] might have made it clearer why failing to warn a driver that being "in violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504" could result in a DUI verdict regardless of test results, i.e., that those sections allow for conviction in the face of any evidence of intoxication. (In effect, both say — see 1(b) of either — that you're guilty of driving under the influence if you're driving under the influence.)

The legislated warning language itself includes no such explanation. Unless the driver already knows the content of RCW 46.61.502 or .504, simply telling her those numbers provides no warning at all. It's just saying, "You could be found in violation of the law if you're in violation of the law." Gobbledygook with decimal points!

But having "heard this [inadequate-warning] argument quite a few times," King County District Court Judge Peter Nault should have known better than to fall for it. Clearly, in the case of an alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent, it's a moot point, an issue for legislators and legal scholars. The warning language is quite plain that, with such test results, you're going to lose your license, and since the legislated language doesn't actually warn you, not hearing it shouldn't matter anyway.

— John Boehrer, Seattle

Drowning out that tinkling sound

I was saddened and disappointed to read that Nordstrom is discontinuing its wonderful live piano players in favor of commercially recorded music piped in over speakers ["Nordstrom is changing its tune," Business and Technology, Nov. 29].

We are overloaded with sources today that we can listen to prerecorded music any time we want. I look around and how many people have earphones plugged in? Many.

How often do we get to listen, for no cost, to some very well-done piano-playing in a mall environment? Only at Nordstrom's!

I cannot think how many times I have walked around malls with all the noise and rushing around and all of a sudden I felt like I entered a very peaceful place when I heard that familiar Nordstrom's piano playing. I still remember the first time I walked into a Nordstrom store and had that neat feeling. Sad to say, that will not be happening anymore — "due to popular demand."

— Tedd Riggs, Redmond

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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