Babbitt to Meet with County Leaders about Reachby Associated Press
Spokesman Review, May 16, 2000
GOP leaders had asked for meeting on protecting stretch of Columbia
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 want 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 Benton, Franklin and Grant County officials while Babbitt is in southcentral Washington.
In response, Babbitt has agreed to meet with county officials in Richland, 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 reach has been protected for decades by the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees the adjacent Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
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