Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Landlocked Navy

by Senator Larry Craig

Idaho is quite the seafaring state. Yes, it’s safe to say that the history of the United States Navy, and quite possibly the history of our nation would be much different without the contributions of our state. I realize that some of you may wonder what the heck I’m talking about, so let me explain.

Since World War II, Idaho has played an important role in preparing the Navy’s sailors for their roles at sea. In 1942, tasked with waging a war in the farthest reaches of the globe, the War Department recognized the need for a large facility to train more sailors. That year, the Navy built Farragut Naval Training Station on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. At the time, it was the second largest naval training center in the world.

In the 30 short months it was operational, more than 290,000 sailors from 19 states received basic training at Farragut. The last class graduated in March, 1945, but that would not be the end of Idaho’s contribution to naval training.

In 1950, the Naval Reactors Facility was established near Arco to support the development of naval nuclear propulsion. Throughout the Cold War, thousands of officers and sailors were trained in the intricacies of the operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors. You may be interested to know that research at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor and Naval Reactors Facility have contributed to the extension of the life of nuclear fuel on Navy vessels, so that some nuclear-powered ships never have to be refueled.

While the Navy has consolidated most of its nuclear research and training programs in South Carolina, Idaho’s involvement in research and development of submarines and warships continues today. Stretching back several decades, the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment (ARD) at Bayview, Idaho, has been conducting research and development on Lake Pend Oreille.

Scale models of the most advanced submarines in the world were, and continue to be extensively tested in the quiet, deep waters of the lake. North Idaho residents have known for a long time that Lake Pend Oreille is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and that it is ideal for fishing, boating, kayaking and all sorts of outdoor activities. But the depth (the lake is nearly 1200 feet deep) and the size (more than 40 miles long) of Lake Pend Oreille make it almost perfect for acoustic testing.

Oceans are full of background noise, such as waves, animals, earthquakes and volcanoes, which make it difficult to effectively test just how quiet a ship is. On top of that, salt water takes its toll on things. Testing in Pend Oreille eliminates many of the noise and maintenance problems, and the more controlled conditions allow the Navy to build smaller, quarter-scale and third-scale models, that are much easier and cheaper to operate or modify. Anybody who knows me knows that it warms my heart to see government agencies looking for ways to get the job done right while saving the taxpayers money.

The men and women of the Acoustic Research Detachment have played vital roles in developing the Seawolf-class and Virginia-class submarines, making our subs more silent. Underwater, silence can be the difference between life and death for American submariners.

On August 24, 2005, in Bayview, ARD embarked on a new journey, dedicating the new Sea Jet, a quarter-scale model of a DDX class destroyer. This is the first in the next generation of naval surface ships, which will go faster, farther, and quieter than anything on the waves. It is truly a remarkable craft.

With that, Idaho, the landlocked state more than 300 miles from the Pacific Ocean, will continue to shape the future of the United States Navy, and keep our men and women in uniform on the cutting edge of technology and military hardware. Idahoans should be proud, but not surprised, that Idaho’s Navy is helping to keep America safe and strong.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sharing the Great Outdoors

by Senator Larry Craig

There is a lot to love about Idaho. While many parts of our state are growing, it’s still a relatively uncrowded place. Compared with many of the people I meet in Washington, D.C., and other places, Idahoans are still incredibly friendly, helpful and easygoing. I think it’s because we’re all glad we live in a beautiful state.

Whether you were born and raised in Idaho, like me, or you came here from another state, many of us love it here for the same reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the amazing variety and high quality of outdoor activities Idaho has to offer. Whether you enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, boating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or any of a number of other outdoor activities, the opportunities to pursue these pastimes in our state are just as good as, if not better than, anywhere in the world.

That is why I will be at Fort Boise Park in Boise on August 25, at noon, to help celebrate the first annual Idaho Outdoor Recreation Week. The Idaho Recreation Council has organized the event to bring together outdoor recreationists of all kinds to raise awareness of the importance of all forms of recreation in Idaho.

As Idaho’s population and character continue to grow and change, it is important for all outdoor enthusiasts to keep informed of, and to understand, the issues facing them. First and foremost among those is the issue of access to public lands. How should these lands be used and managed, and by whom?

Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service once said, “National Forests are made for and owned by the people. They should also be managed by the people. They are made, not to give the officers in charge of them a chance to work out theories, but to give the people who use them, and those affected by their use, a chance to work out their own best profit.”

I know that hikers may have a different vision for public lands access than ATV users or hunters. Anglers and boaters may differ on the best uses for our waterways. In fact, for every outdoor activity, there are probably different views on how our public lands and outdoor resources ought to be used. That’s why it’s important for all these groups to communicate and interact with each other, to make a good faith effort to understand the needs and concerns of each other when it comes to public lands. The result of such cooperation and collaboration can, and often does, lead to better land use decisions that all parties can live with.

Idaho Outdoor Recreation Week was started with this kind of interaction and cooperation in mind. Solitude has its place, motorized recreation has its place, and they can co-exist. With nearly 20 percent of federal land in Idaho designated as wilderness, and 45 percent of our federal land designated as roadless, and considering an amazing 78 percent increase in ATV / motorbike registration in the last four years, outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds must acknowledge some things. We must accept that outdoor interests are widely varied, and that the time has come to work together, so that all Idahoans may continue to enjoy the unique outdoor opportunities that make Idaho such a great place to live.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Preaching Breaching

by Senator Larry Craig

Over the past several weeks, there have been a number of people, who consider themselves “pro-salmon” advocates, pushing an agenda of dam breaching in the Pacific Northwest. I have been one of the targets of this campaign, receiving criticism for refusing to consider dam breaching as a realistic option to boost salmon recovery. Unfortunately, breaching proponents have left a lot of facts unmentioned in pushing their agenda - facts that absolutely cannot be overlooked.

The dams in question over the last few months are four on the lower Snake River system. The electricity generated by these dams provides roughly five percent of all the power consumed in the Pacific Northwest. That is enough to power the entire city of Seattle, or provide about 60 percent of the electricity needs of the entire state of Idaho.

The power no longer generated by the dams would have to be replaced by other generation facilities, such as coal or gas-fired turbines. In the name of the environment, breaching advocates apparently would replace emission-free dams with plants powered by fossil fuels, releasing carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which would result in a net increase of greenhouse emissions. How this is environmentally responsible is not apparent to me.

If no new generation facilities are built to replace the power lost, electricity rates in the Northwest will skyrocket, as utilities would be forced to buy power from more expensive generation facilities, possibly outside the region. Jobs and the vibrant economy of the region would undoubtedly suffer.

Significant debate remains as to whether dam breaching would even have a positive impact on salmon runs in the region, in part, because a number of dams would still remain on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. What is not debatable, however, is the fact that 75 million cubic yards of silt have accumulated behind the four dams over the years. Silt removal prior to breaching would cost tens if not hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Without removal, breaching would flush all of this sediment downriver, turning the Snake and Columbia Rivers into a muddy mess that would almost certainly be harmful to salmon and other species in the river.

I haven’t even mentioned the huge problems that would result from the loss of shipping ports in Lewiston, Clarkston and Whitman, which account for half of all the wheat shipped down the Columbia River. Breaching would mean the end of barge traffic and the loss of a very economical shipping option for Idaho farmers. They would be forced to use trucks or railroads instead, both of which are more expensive. Higher transportation costs hurt farmers, consumers, small businesses, and workers.

Furthermore, it would take hundreds, if not thousands, more long-haul trucks on Northwest highways to make up the difference in lost barge traffic, meaning more-crowded highways and more wear and tear on our roads.

Having said all this, I don’t suggest that salmon are not worth saving, or that they can’t be saved. The question is not whether we place salmon, people, jobs or the economy ahead of one another on some list of priorities. Salmon are an important part of Idaho and the region. They can and do flourish alongside humans and alongside the navigation, flood control, power production, irrigation, and recreation provided by the hydropower system in the Northwest. In fact, from 2000 to 2004, the number of salmon returning past the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers has increased significantly - Snake River fall Chinook by 300 percent over this period. This is a testament to the fact that people and salmon do not have to benefit at the cost of each other.

Instead of focusing on dam removal that at best would have questionable benefits for salmon, and would introduce negative environmental effects, I challenge people to start looking at the big unknowns in salmon recovery. Fishery biologists have learned a lot about salmon behavior in the freshwater environment but still know comparatively little about what happens to the young fish after they swim out to sea.

I believe that it is important to continue to invest in improvements in juvenile fish passage, habitat and hatcheries. We must also continue to improve freshwater survival so that when the ocean is favorable, endangered salmon will realize the maximum benefit from those conditions, and, when the ocean is not favorable, the salmon will get through the tough times. The ocean environment has an enormous influence on salmon survival, which is why the magnitude of the effects of ocean conditions must be taken into account in gauging the results of the region’s salmon recovery effort, instead of just blaming the dams, which provide both economic benefits to the people of the Northwest, and environmental benefits by the power they provide that does not have to come from fossil fuel sources.

We can achieve both viable salmon populations and a healthy economy if we focus on the right issues. We can do that without crippling the economy of the Northwest. I will continue working in the Senate to ensure that a balance is met where salmon recovery is consistent with the environmental and economic foundations of the region.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A State of Patriots

by Senator Larry Craig

Now that August recess has begun, and I’ve had a chance to get back home to Idaho, I have been able to reflect on the flurry of events on the Senate floor leading up to the break. I couldn’t help but think of the famous line from the move “Forrest Gump”. Forrest reminisced that his mother used to tell him “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” In a week full of surprises, I felt that way too.

While much of the focus in Congress and in the media fell on legislation like the Energy Bill, the Gun Liability Bill, the Highway Bill and some of the appropriations bills, reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act coasted through the Senate with hardly any notice.

I’m sure that some may be critical of the swift manner in which PATRIOT reauthorization (S.1389) was approved by the Senate, hoping it would be debated extensively on the Senate floor. Instead, it passed unopposed. I want Idahoans to know that I seriously considered objecting to the unanimous consent request to approve the bill. In the end, I decided not to do that. Let me explain why.

As you may know, I was the original sponsor of legislation called the Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act was designed to amend the PATRIOT Act to protect civil liberties and place reasonable limitations on the federal government’s use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants, without impeding the war on terrorism, and it garnered support from a wide variety of senators.

In fact, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter was a cosponsor of the SAFE Act in the 107th Congress. In the past several months he spent crafting the PATRIOT reauthorization bill, Chairman Specter managed to work several of the SAFE Act’s principles into the Senate Judiciary Committee’s verson of PATRIOT reauthorization.

This took a great effort to accomplish in the face of strong sentiment to simply renew and expand PATRIOT. It’s worth noting that the House version of S.1389 did not contain any of the SAFE Act provisions. Senator Specter understood that including parts of the SAFE Act would virtually guarantee a conflict with the House on this issue, and these differences must be worked out in a conference of Senate and House members.

In the end, the bill approved by the Senate was not perfect. But it did include language to protect the privacy of innocent Americans by requiring the government to convince a judge that a person is connected to terrorism or espionage before obtaining their library records, medical records or other sensitive personal information.

It would also protect innocent Americans from covert surveillance by prohibiting “John Doe” roving wiretaps, which do not identify the person or the phone to be wiretapped. The bill would require the government to describe the target of a roving wiretap with particularity. Furthermore, government would not be able to wait more than seven days before providing notice of a search, unless a court finds that the facts of the case justify a later date.

Had I objected to the unanimous consent request to approve S.1389, it would have been subjected to a lengthy floor battle, in which it was very likely that the good things in the bill would have been stripped out. Allowing it to pass in this way ensured that it included some, rather than none, of the reforms I wanted.

If Idahoans hadn’t raised their concerns with me and the rest of the Idaho Congressional Delegation regarding the PATRIOT Act several years ago, it’s likely that no changes would have been made to the law when it came time for reauthorization. Should any of the Senate’s provisions remain intact in conference, the watchfulness and contributions of the citizens of Idaho could benefit the entire nation with a better law.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Protecting the Second Amendment

by Senator Larry Craig

Earlier this year, in February, I introduced S.397, the Protection of the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, legislation to protect law-abiding gun dealers and manufacturers from being held responsible in court for the criminal actions of third parties. I am pleased to report that on July 29, this bill was approved by the full Senate, 65 to 31.

How does this impact Idahoans? Idahoans will benefit in many ways, whether they are soldiers in our armed services, law enforcement officers in our cities and counties, or private citizens seeking to protect themselves from criminals. Let me explain why.

Gun control advocates, largely unsuccessful in achieving their agenda through the legislative process, have changed their tactics and taken to the courtroom. They have been joined by several cities, which apparently refuse to crack down on crime, in order to effectively sue American firearms dealers and manufacturers out of existence. S.397 was designed to put an end to predatory lawsuits which ultimately line the pockets of trial lawyers, rather than benefit victims of violent crime.

In a growing environment of endless litigation, it wouldn’t take long before law-abiding firearms dealers and manufacturers all over the country would be closing their doors, unable to bear the costs of defending themselves indefinitely. This is not an industry awash with money. Most individual firearms manufacturers are relatively small operations, employing perhaps a few hundred workers, rather than tens of thousands. Even if they win every case, lawyers must be paid to defend the company, and the costs of those services add up.

Sadly, those in the anti-Second Amendment crowd fail to see the greater consequences of their lawsuit campaign. If the American firearms industry went bankrupt, thousands of workers would be out of a good paying job, and our armed forces would have no choice but to buy our soldiers’ and marines’ rifles from foreign producers. So would our law enforcement agencies. This might not seem to be such a problem if we are in a time of peace. But in times of war, the United States must be able to arm our men and women in uniform quickly and reliably. Relying on foreign firearms makers would pose a serious threat to our nation.

In addition to national security, private citizens interested in protecting themselves or their families would lose, too. The loss of American producers would narrow the choices of products available to consumers, allowing foreign producers to raise prices for their firearms. Second Amendment rights should not become a privilege available only to the wealthy.

As I have said many times before, most sensible people agree that General Motors or Ford should not be held responsible if a drunk driver uses one of their products and gets in an accident. Nor should your local sporting goods store be sued if a softball bat is used in a robbery. To some trial lawyers and social activists, however, this logic does not apply to firearms dealers and manufacturers.

The Protection of the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is designed to restore a bit of sanity to our legal system, so that all Americans and their families remain secure in their homes, and in their Second Amendment rights. Clearly, a large majority of my colleagues in the Senate agree, with 61 of them signing on as cosponsors of the bill. I was pleased to play a part in bringing the bill to passage.