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Bill Calls for Plan to take out 4 Snake River Dams

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 20, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jim McDermott introduced a bill in the House yesterday that would set the stage for the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River as early as 2005, if federal agencies say that is necessary to preserve endangered salmon in the river, comply with the Clean Water Act or meet obligations to Native American tribes.

The measure, which McDermott, D-Wash., introduced along with 20 co-sponsors, calls for federal agencies to begin planning to remove the Eastern Washington dams by studying how breaching the Eastern Washington dams would affect farmers, transportation and energy production in the region.

It also calls for Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, to analyze the cost and effectiveness of alternative ways to generate electricity, transport goods and irrigate farmland, should the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remove the dams.

"This basically says, 'Let's get the real information on the table,'" said Bill Arthur, Northwest and Alaska regional director for the Sierra Club. "This would allow us to move forward if there's a decision to remove the dams in a way that would not only help to protect the salmon but also help the communities that would be affected by this," Arthur said.

Under the federal Salmon Recovery Plan, which was issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies in December 2000, if federal efforts to revive threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River don't work, federal agencies can seek Congress' approval to remove the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams.

Environmental groups lauded the bill yesterday, but some lawmakers bristled at the measure.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., sent letters to his 434 colleagues in the House criticizing the measure.

"At a time when both Democrats and Republicans are focusing on how to address our nation's future energy needs," he said, "it seems bizarre and unconscionable that anyone would be actively working to legislate the elimination of a clean energy source that provides power to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and energy-starved California."

Related Pages:
Salmon Planning Act: H.R. Bill 2573

Jennifer A. Dlouhy Washington Bureau
Bill Calls for Plan to take out 4 Snake River Dams
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 20, 2001

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