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Commentaries and editorials

Nethercutt Chides Alaska's Governor for Remarks

by Mike Lee
Tri-City Herald - October 28, 1999

Are not. Are too. Are not.

So goes the interstate political argument, incited by Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles earlier this week when he called the Columbia-Snake hydropower system the "killing fields" of Northwest salmon.

U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., retaliated Wednesday, chastising Knowles for his "irresponsible" words and defending the four lower Snake River dams.

"The governor ought to resist the temptation to react hysterically, mind Alaska's business and not interfere with ours," Nethercutt said in a press statement. "Inflammatory rhetoric, such as the governor's recent remarks, polarizes the debate and drives the discussion to extreme points of view."

Knowles' comments were made in a letter to Washington Gov. Gary Locke and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who opposed attempts by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to exempt Alaska commercial anglers from Endangered Species Act measures.

The Alaska governor also said bluntly that Oregon, Washington and the federal government aren't yet dealing with the core problem of Snake salmon declines - the dams - and instead were bowing to political pressure to steer clear of dam breaching.

Stevens and Knowles, prompted by the powerful trolling industry, don't want anglers to have to give up more catch than required by the 1999 U.S.-Canada Salmon Treaty. Stevens' rider on the Commerce Department spending bill to make exemptions has prompted veto threats from President Clinton, who was petitioned by Kitzhaber and Locke not to let that happen.

They argue such an exemption never was part of the lengthy treaty negotiations, and they fear it would start to unravel the agreement.

Nethercutt stepped into the fracas with a letter Wednesday to Knowles in which he pointed out "numerous contributing factors" to the decline of wild salmon, including Caspian terns, marine mammal predators, human harvest and improperly run hatcheries.

"I was especially shocked at the irresponsible statement attributed to you that the Snake and Columbia river dams are a 'killing field' for salmon," Nethercutt said. "You should know better than to make such a statement."

Knowles and Nethercutt agree the fishing industry should not bear the costs of salmon recovery alone. "Likewise," Nethercutt said, "it is irresponsible of you to place the sole burden of salmon restoration on the backs of farmers who put food on the tables across this country."

by Michael Paulson, Washington Correspondent
Rifts Threaten Salmon Treaty
Tri-City Herald, October 28, 1999

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