The Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday signaled their tentative support for Rep. Mike Simpson’s “Northwest in Transition” plan, agreeing to draft a letter in favor of the concepts outlined in his proposal.

While the specific details of Simpson’s plan to breach four dams on the lower Snake River are still in the works, Blaine commissioners said during their regular meeting Tuesday that they are in favor of the general ideas involved.

“I’m really supportive of the concept,” Commissioner Angenie McCleary said. “I feel strongly this needs to move forward. Simpson has worked hard on this issue and has for a number of years, from different angles.”

The proposal includes a number of suggestions to break an “unsustainable cycle of conflicts over salmon and energy” in the Northwest, as stated in a one-page fact sheet outlining the plan, with proposed measures to replace the agricultural and energy-related benefits of the dams.

Angenie McCleary

Angenie McCleary

The plan was drafted after more than 300 meetings over the past three years with stakeholders, tribe leaders and elected representatives, according to Simpson’s webpage on the proposal.

Commissioner Dick Fosbury on Tuesday echoed McCleary’s sentiments.

“Philosophically, I’m certainly in support of the concept because [the dams have] constantly been a threat to our fisheries and to salmon migration, which is important in our community,” Fosbury said. “But I also understand the challenges that this will present to some of the communities that have their economy clearly based on shipping and other industries.”

The city of Stanley has expressed its support for the proposal, Mayor Steve Botti told the Blaine County commissioners at a meeting earlier this month.

“We don’t view it as a final solution by any means, and I don’t think [Simpson] does either,” Botti said. “I think he’s put it forward as a framework for discussion. It seems useful to us to have that discussion.”

McCleary said Tuesday that she believes Blaine County should similarly “weigh in with a letter of support” for the proposal.

Moving forward, the commissioners determined, they will draft a letter of support for the concept and officially vote on the letter in the early weeks of April.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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