In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Canoeing the Columbia re-creates history; paddling Salmon Creek causes confusion

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Cheers: To the modern voyageurs. The Columbia River has attracted more than its share of travelers re-creating the voyages of yesteryear. On Thursday, members of Northwest tribes including the Cowlitz landed at Fort Vancouver. They’re on their way to a bigger rendezvous next month north of Seattle. Earlier in the week, Marine Park hosted 110 members of the David Thompson Columbia River Brigade. The party, which included seventh- and eighth-generation descendants of Thompson, experienced the Columbia River portion of his 3,000-mile expedition. Besides the tourism dollars these groups bring, they also help us understand our river and our place in North American history.

Jeers: To confusing rules over the ownership of public waterways. While people are coming from all over to transit the Columbia, a local kayaker found herself confused while paddling the recent floodwaters of Salmon Creek. Sheryl Wagner tries to stay off private property. But after consulting various government sources, she found the answer to whether kayaking is legal on Salmon Creek to be as cloudy as the water after a freshet. There’s a common-law tradition that all waterways are publicly owned, but a patchwork of platting practices puts some property lines right in the center of the creek. That appears to be legal, since Salmon Creek is too small to be considered navigable. The best advice Wagner got was to kayak, but not step out of the boat lest she be accused of trespassing.

Cheers: To the ongoing demolition of the Davy Crockett. The government, and thus the public, got stuck with the removal of this eyesore from the Columbia River after the derelict barge broke in half and began leaking oil during an unsanctioned private demolition effort. The cleanup is taking place a little more than a stone’s throw from the Clark County shoreline, where the former Liberty Ship had been tied up for years. Now most of the vessel has been broken and hauled off to be recycled, but the dirty water and mucky river bottom still have to be cleaned. The cost, $16.6 million to date, will come from a federal oil spill trust fund. Let’s hope the criminal investigation into the case is moving along as well as the cleanup.

Jeers: To childhood obesity. Two million U.S. children are considered extremely obese, according to The Associated Press, and nearly one-third of all children are at least overweight. It’s so bad that this week an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposed that some parents should lose custody of their extremely obese children. But there are reasons for hope. This week a young Vancouver woman, Chrisetta Mosley, shared her story of growing up obese. After topping out at 388 pounds six years ago, she was able to get her disease under control and now weighs 225 pounds, and still dropping.

Cheers: To a bill introduced this week by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, that would fix a loophole in the law regarding medical savings accounts offered to some government employees. Many agencies, including the City of Vancouver, offer these state-administered “health reimbursement arrangements” to employees. But when the worker dies, the law currently allows the account balance to be passed on to non-dependant survivors only if the deceased worked directly for the state. The accounts of those who worked for “political subdivisions” such as the city are forfeited. The law should be changed.

Jeers: To a Republican congressional proposal to redirect money already allocated to high-speed rail for flood-relief programs. No doubt the flood relief is necessary and expensive, but targeting previously awarded grants smacks of politics.