In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

White Salmon opens for recreation; law adds insult to windshield injury

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Cheers: To the end of access restrictions on the lower White Salmon River.

PacifiCorp, the Portland-based utility, had for good reason put the restrictions in place during the breaching and subsequent demolition of Condit Dam, which was located three miles from the river's mouth in the Columbia River Gorge. The banks of the stream had to stabilize after the large volume of water from the former Northwestern Reservoir swished through the river's canyon, along with nearly a century of silt and debris that 125-foot-tall Condit had held back.

Now that the dam is demolished and the river is healing, the White Salmon will provide tremendous recreational opportunities for capable white-water rafters, kayakers and other paddlers. Note the word "capable": The narrow canyon below the location of the former dam is challenging and should be experienced only by qualified experts with the proper training and equipment.

Of course, the main benefit to breaching the dam is to restore salmon habitat. But it's nice to know that with the loss of the recreation on Northwestern Reservoir comes the chance at a new kind of recreation just downstream.

Jeers: To that flying rock that just broke your car's windshield. And, to the state law that didn't make the gravel truck driver cover his load with a tarp. A recent reader question prompted Columbian reporter Scott Hewitt to inquire about the state's laws regarding loaded trucks. The law requires loads to be covered so nothing can drop, sift, leak or otherwise escape onto the road -- or your windshield -- but grants an exemption for loads that don't come within 6 inches of the top of the truck's bed.

Of course, even if there is a law, enforcement would be complicated. The Washington State Patrol's website notes that proving rock or debris from another vehicle damaged your car is very difficult, and is a civil matter between you and the offending party. No wonder auto insurance is so costly.

Cheers: To artists who ask, "What is Democracy?" The question is the subject of an exhibit of local art on display this month at Gallery 360 in downtown Vancouver.

Reem Sabha, a junior at Mountain View High School, is one of the artists whose work is on display. "Parties are really the epitome of democracy," said Sabha, whose mixed-media collage is titled "Donkeys and Elephants."

"We can be Democrats or Republicans, but we're all ultimately Americans," she added. Sabha, 16 and too young to vote, is a contributor to our democracy.

Jeers: To this political statement by a top handler of Mexico's politician-in-chief, president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto. A day after Washington and Colorado approved legalization of marijuana, Pena Nieto's transition adviser, Luis Videgaray, told a Mexican media outlet that the vote could complicate Mexico's commitment to stopping pot growing and smuggling. Videgaray says the votes "change somewhat the rules of the game."

Why should they? Washington's new law, at least, was passed in recognition of a smuggling problem. Legalization should make the illegal drugs less of a market force, and help the Mexicans reduce the deadly violence that has become a daily part of life in too many cities. If anything, the incoming president should use the new U.S. laws as a tool to crack down even more on illegal enterprises in Mexico and the dangerous criminal organizations that run them.

Cheers: To freeway repair on Interstate 5 south of Sea-Tac airport. As anyone who's experienced the teeth-rattling ride can attest, the state Department of Transportation's efforts to replace 64 concrete panels and shave the uneven surfaces off others were long overdue.