This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Parks will put funds to good use
Removing two Elwha River dams is something that’s been talked about for a long time in the Northwest. But thanks to $54.7 million in federal economic stimulus money, it’s starting to look like it’s really going to happen.
The national parks are getting $750 million to fund 750 projects in 48 states, and Washington state is faring very well with $62 million for 33 projects. Only California is getting more for its national parks – $97 million.
The National Park Service is giving priority to projects that are ready to go this summer, create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and have lasting value for the park system and visitors. The funding is expected to create 30,000 to 40,000 jobs beginning this summer, including 15,000 in the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps – which was inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.
Removing the two Elwha River dams in Olympic National Park definitely falls in the job-creation category and should be good news for a part of the state that was hurting even before the current recession.
More than 200 jobs will be created beginning this summer on nine mitigation projects that must be completed before work ban begin on actually dismantling the dams. Those include replacing the Clallam Tribe’s fish hatchery and completing two flood-protection projects. That mitigation was always part of the planning for the dams’ removal, but thanks to the stimulus money it will be completed a year earlier than projected.
Jobs are important, especially now. But the major reason behind getting rid of the dams is to resurrect the river’s moribund salmon runs – which once produced harvests of enormous fish.
Although most of the money coming to Washington’s national parks is going to the Elwha mitigation projects ($54.7 million), $3.3 million is going to Mount Rainier National Park for nine projects. Those include parking and flood-protection improvements, converting Ipsut Creek Campground to a backcountry facility, rerouting the Glacier Basin and Wonderland trails, and updating exhibits at the Sunrise Visitor Center.
Putting people to work in the national parks during the Great Depression had long-lasting benefits for the country, creating great lodges and other facilities still in use today.
The 2009 version isn’t expected to have quite the same impact; it will only address about 10 percent of the park system’s backlog of badly needed repair and maintenance projects.
Still, it will provide jobs while addressing some of the system’s most pressing needs – a well-targeted use of federal stimulus money.