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107 House Members Sign Letter Opposing Dam Breaching

by Bob Hawley Jr., Capital Press - August 6, 1999

WASHINGTON - Trying to counter the opposition to breaching Northwest dams being led by Republican legislators, 107 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to President Clinton Aug. 4, urging him to oppose any efforts to circumvent all efforts toward salmon recovery.

Although Taxpayers For Common Sense called the letter-writing campaign "unparalleled support of a bipartisan group from 21 states," only 12 of the 107 were Republicans, and none of the 12 was from the Northwest. Two Republicans from California signed.

On July 21, the House Resources Committee passed a resolution sponsored by Washington Republican Reps. Doc Hastings and George Nethercutt opposing dam removal.

And the Senate passed a measure in June sponsored b Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., that prevents the Bonneville Power Administration from raising rates now to pay for future dam removal.

Environmentalists, Indians and some scientists say breaching four lower Snake River dams gives salmon the best chance of recovering from certain extinction. More than a dozen runs of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers have been listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Hastings, Gorton, Nethercutt; Idaho's congressional delegation of Sens. Larry Craig, Michael Crapo, and Reps. Michael Simpson and Helen Chenoweth; California's Rep. John Doolittle; and Oregon's Sen. Gordon Smith and Rep. Greg Walden, all Republicans, have been fighting to remove dam breaching as an alternative for salmon recovery.

Some of them even have said the issue is dead for the remainder of Clinton's term in office.

The National Marine Fisheris Service is expected to recommend to Congress early next year whether the four dams should be breached. That recommendation will be based largely on the results of economic studies of three salmon-recovery alternatives by the Corps of Engineers due in October.

Six Democratic representatives from the Northwest signed the Aug. 4 letter to Clinton: Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott, both of Washington, and Earl Bluemenauer, Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley and David Wu, all of Oregon.

Ironically, all of the Northwest Democrats but Bluemenauer signed a June 8 letter to NMFS asking that all salmon-recovery alternatives be considered, except dam breaching or removal.

"We want to assure that other comprehensive alternatives are also evaluated," the group said in the June letter, which was written by Inslee. But the tone changed in the Aug. 4 letter.

"We urge that all scientifically credible options - including modified versions of present policies, partial removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River, and any other alternative recommended by your agencies or developed within the region -- be considered with equal rigor and seriousness, and be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and economic mitigation studies."

Reps. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., and George Miller, D-Calif., were credited with writing the letter and collecting the signatures. Taxpayers For Common Sense coordinated the effort, which included such environmental groups as American Rivers, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and Save Our Wild Salmon.

"The letter marks the beginning of a great national decision," said Ralph DeGennaro, executive director of TCS in a prepared statement. TCS calls itself a government budget watchdog group.

"We need to start making some tough decisions to save money and salmon. Lawmakers sent a message today that our resources should be targeted at the most promising solutions."

Steven Weiss of the Northwest Energy Coalition told the Capital Press last week that an effort is under way by the more radical environmental interest groups to nationalize the salmon issue. By directing national attention to the Northwest's salmon predicament and low electricity rates, the groups hope to win support for their agenda from the rest of the nation which pays as much as 40 percent higher power rates.

The full text of the letter and list of 107 signers is on TCS's web site at

by Bob Hawley Jr.
Capital Press Staff Writer 107 House Members Sign Letter Opposing Dam Breaching
Capital Press - August 6, 1999

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