Fish Passage Barriers and Stimulus

Let’s return to RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s efforts to destroy the economy:

Democrats in Congress want a one-trillion dollar spending bill. You’ve heard about the pork-barrel programs they want to fund… 45 million dollars for ATV trails and removal of fish passage barriers is one that caught my eye. Exactly what is a fish passage barrier and why does it cost 45 million dollars to stimulate the economy with it?

I don’t recognize the phrase off the top of my head, but common sense would indicate that you remove a fish passage barrier in order to let fish cross through someplace. A google image search revealed this:


Since the funds were for the removal of fish passage barriers, it’s not clear to me why Steele is even asking about why we would stimulate the economy with a fish passage barrier. He not only can’t bother to look up what a fish passage barrier is, but he can’t recall from one sentence to the next whether he’s mocking the idea of creating them or mocking the idea of removing them.

With everything in this debate, though, if you understand what’s happening you understand that the point isn’t that a reduction in the number of fish passage barriers will stimulate the economy. The point is that to stimulate the economy you need to identify projects that will employ people and materials. But ideally we don’t want to employ people and materials doing something totally pointless. Removing fish passage barriers will, I assume, have environmental benefits and ensure the long-term viability of fish populations. That’s good for the fish, probably good for water quality, and probably beneficial to people whose livelihoods depend on fishing or the viability of the tourism and recreation industries.