Letters to the Editor


My name is Jules Gindraux. I am retired and have lived in Hayden for the last nine years. Prior to that, I lived at Priest Lake for 19 years. My early years were in Spokane from infancy in 1918 until January, 1942, when I entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot, during which I served two overseas tours, followed by 30 years of living and traveling in many parts of the globe. Each had its unique characteristics, however the water quality of most was incomparable to the cool, clear, sweet, year-round water of my youth in Spokane, [water] that was pumped in from the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

Hence, my protective instincts for water purity were aroused in 1982 at Priest Lake when an unscrupulous co-generation power developer threatened to disrupt streams entering Priest Lake. Concerned Residents of Priest Lake (CRPL), of which I was secretary-treasurer, offered its support in opposition, and thanks to Bob Haynes of the Department of Water Resources, the developer was denied.

For protection of Priest Lake's exceptional water purity and clarity, weekly secchi disc recordings at 96 predetermined locations were sent by a team of volunteers to the Department of Water Resources. I was project manager for four years. When problems were revealed, they were seriously reviewed and acted upon.

Likewise, when problems of contamination arise with the aquifer, corrective action is necessary, and when destructive natural forces are foreseen, protective measures must be taken. The Rathdrum aquifer abounds in both. They must be heeded. To quote the Nature Conservancy, "Clean water: So essential, so basic, so ... taken for granted. After all, life without clean water would be unimaginable."

Allocation of water rights now is ahead of time -- it overlooks and ignores water purity and is dangerously premature. Water purity is the first essential for the welfare of a half million people and the area's economy. Good reason that allocation should be last.

Determining water rights at this time presumes or ignores if water is clean and pure. If it is not, who needs it? The Rathdrum aquifer is the single source of potable water. There is no alternative, and purification is not feasible or affordable.

A similar situation was faced by New York City, which with wisdom and dedication declared sacrosanct the surrounding area of its main water reservoir, thereby supplying millions of people with assured safe and pure water.

Question: Do our decision makers have the common sense, wisdom and foresight to simultaneously set in motion steps to eliminate polluting sources and to declare sacrosanct the Rathdrum aquifer? If not, they will equally suffer the consequences.

Jules Gindraux

Hayden, Idaho

Cowles Beat

Speaking for myself only, I'd like to address a couple of points in Ted McGregor's column and the attached comments ("Turning the Page," 5/17) about the Washington News Council's River Park Square report.

First, I did the reporting and writing of the report's narrative, but not its recommendations. Those came from the news council. I am not a member of the council and had no direct hand in writing that section of the report. Indeed, a recommendation that I did suggest the council elected not to include on their list.

I'd also disagree with Tim Connor's assertion we were too soft on Betsy Cowles' role in the changes edited into Alison Boggs' Oct. 22, 1996, story. Similarly, I disagree with Steve Smith's reading of our report (in his column) that because we said Ms. Cowles "influenced" the story that somehow meant she was not directly responsible for the changes. If you read the report carefully, listen to Ms. Cowles' interview, and take a look at the before and after stories in the report's document file, you will see we presented a very clear line between Ms. Cowles scribbled notes and the changes edited into Ms. Boggs' story. The report says: "On more than one occasion, Betsy Cowles directed that more substantial changes be made..." (my emphasis added). In that context, saying Ms. Cowles "influenced" the editing is an accurate description of the process that took place. Ms. Cowles' protest that she did not physically edit the stories is, as the report points out, legalistic hairsplitting.

Doug Floyd suggests that the problems highlighted in our report were all "committed, conceded and corrected" -- implying they are no longer relevant. That is both inaccurate and misses the point. Some have been fixed, as we noted, but others have not. More important, the broader problem that still dogs the Spokesman-Review is the ongoing conflict -- real and/or perceived -- that comes with trying to cover its owners' many financial, cultural and political ventures. The Council's recommendation that the paper create a "Cowles beat" was rejected by Steve Smith as impractical. But putting the onus of that coverage on one experienced reporter, and making sure that reporter is rewarded for showing enterprise in his or her coverage, would provide readers with more depth and context in local coverage than parceling out Cowles-related stories to whoever happens to be free at the moment. It would also give the community a real person to go to with tips or story suggestions. This has been done before. In Seattle, both dailies have a "Boeing reporter" whose core job is to cover all aspects of a company whose influence on Seattle probably does not approach the Cowles' influence on Spokane. Does it work? Both the Seattle Times and P-I have won numerous journalism awards for their Boeing coverage, including a Pulitzer prize.

Finally, Steve Eugster and Lauri Siddoway raise valid points that there are many elements to the RPS story that were uncovered by the Spokesman-Review and by our report. Our task was not to provide a laundry list of every gap in more than a decade of coverage of this very complex project. Instead, we tried to pin down broader areas where ethical problems existed in the journalism the Spokesman-Review practiced, using specific examples to underscore those problems. Eugster, Siddoway and others criticize the report for being too soft. The paper's publisher, former editor and others say we were too tough. In the news business, there is a clich & eacute; that says if you get complaints from both sides when you cover a controversial story, you are doing your job. And that is what we tried to do.

Bill Richards

Indianola, Wash.