We wish President Obama were as eager to help Baker County resuscitate its flagging economy as he is to ensure that an Idaho company gets to build a power transmission line through the county.U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this week that the Obama administration wants to expedite the permitting process for seven power lines. The list includes Idaho Power Company's 300-mile Boardman-to-Hemingway project. The proposed line could run within a mile of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. That possibility has elicited opposition from local residents who contend the 150-foot towers would detract from the Center's views.
Even The Wilderness Society, an organization not known for endorsing large-scale industrial developments, lauds the Obama administration's campaign to fast-track the power lines.
Yet the president, even as federal projects that are more likely to benefit the local economy remain mired in the bureaucratic quicksand of environmental studies, has made no effort to throw us a rescue rope.
The Forest Service, for instance, has been working for more than three years on a series of timber sales near Halfway - the Snow Basin project - that could create local jobs in the woods and mills.
Yet, even as Baker County was enduring its highest jobless rate (9.2 percent) for any August since 1986, there has been no support from Washington, D.C., for speeding progress on Snow Basin, except for a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Speaking of our esteemed senior senator, we must have missed Mr. Obama's public statement supporting Wyden's bill, which calls for more logging east of the Cascades, that the senator introduced almost two years ago.
The president seems to see Baker County not as a land with a wealth of resources, but merely as a convenient place to route a power line through.