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Seattle Council Chief Apologizes Over Dams

by Mike Lee, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, December 13, 2000

Dear Eastern Washington: Sorry about all that mean stuff we said about your dams. We like you. Really. And your power. And the food you produce. Let's do lunch sometime.

Your friend, Seattle.

In so many words, that's what Seattle City Council President Margaret Pageler said this week in an open letter to Eastern Washington. It's a letter that seeks to reconnect the state's largest city with the smaller towns it relies on for food and power.

"We hear you," Pageler said. "We should have talked first."

The letter comes about four months after the council passed a resolution supporting the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams, sacred cows in Eastern Washington.

The action -- which passed without Pageler's support -- carried no legal weight but quickly became a flashpoint among dry-siders who are discontent with what Pageler called the perceived "arrogance of urbanites."

Dozens of Eastern Washington residents and city councils responded with letters of outrage or resolutions calling for the breaching of Seattle's Ballard Locks.

And many Mid-Columbians smiled with smug satisfaction when Seattle City Light in November released plans to double its reliance on the very federal hydrosystem the city council had condemned.

"The economic impact of partial dam removal on your communities may be inadequately understood on our side of the mountains, but please know that bankrupting businesses and farms in Eastern Washington is absolutely not acceptable to us," Pageler said.

The letter was not signed by the rest of the council, but many statements seem to include members besides the president.

"We truly look forward to working together toward your success," it said.

To that end, at least two members of the Seattle City Council are planning to journey east of the mountains to better understand life here. And Pageler's staff is trying to set up a forum with city leaders for the same purpose.

"No one in Seattle wants the people of Eastern Washington to be burdened with poor choices that damage your economy and environment," Pageler said, noting Seattle's attempt to improve its own environmental standards.

Dan Lathim, a Pasco councilman, pushed a tongue-in-cheek retort to Seattle in September that called for breaching the Ballard Locks and several city-operated hydropower dams.

Tuesday, however, he seemed ready to reconcile. "We better get along, I suppose," he said. "We need each other."

He proposed a rural-urban exchange program to increase understanding between the two sides of Washington.

"Everybody in the Tri-Cities has been to Seattle, but not even a small portion of people in Seattle have been to the Tri-Cities," Lathim said.

"We need to somehow work together, become friends."

Mike Lee
Seattle Council Chief Apologizes Over Dams
Tri-City Herald, December 13, 2000

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