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Babbitt Urged to Seek Advice on River Policy

by John Hughes, Associated Press
The Oregonian, May 16, 2000

Two Republicans say local officials should have input on Hanford Reach

WASHINGTON -- As Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt prepared to float down the Hanford Reach today, two Washington state Republicans urged him to consult local officials on the fate of the pristine stretch of the Columbia River.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., told Babbitt in a letter Monday that local officials wanted to settle the fate of the reach without the decision "being forced upon them" from Washington, D.C.

"I ask you to trust them to work out their differences," Gorton said. "If you don't, you can be sure the reaction will be explosive."

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., wrote Babbitt on Friday and asked him to meet with officials from Benton, Franklin and Grant County, Wash., while Babbitt is in southcentral Washington.

In response, Babbitt has agreed to meet with county officials in Richland, Wash., Hasting's office said Monday.

Babbitt plans to take driving and boating tours of the reach as part of an effort to consider whether the stretch deserves protection as a national monument.

President Clinton recently asked Babbitt to review areas that might deserve protection as national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, but Babbitt is not expected to announce any decision on the Hanford Reach during his visit.

The act gives presidents power to create monuments and restrict uses without obtaining congressional approval.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has introduced legislation to protect the Hanford Reach under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Gorton and Hastings have opposed federal protection, saying that state and local governments could protect the reach and its salmon spawning beds.

The stretch of river has been protected from development for decades by the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees the adjacent Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

John Hughes, Associated Press
Babbitt Urged to Seek Advice on River Policy
The Oregonian, May 16, 2000

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