D.C. can't solve local salmon problemsby U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (Wash-R)
Seattle Times Opinion / Editorials, August 4, 1998
NO one can tell whoppers like the Clinton Administration.
The latest came in an article by the administration's top official on environmental matters, Kathleen McGinty ("Science, not politics, should guide salmon restoration," Seattle Times op-ed page, July 29).
In attacking my (U.S. Senator Slade Groton) legislation that requires her administration, and future administrations, to seek the approval of Congress before they unilaterally decide to remove, breach or alter dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, McGinty told several whoppers that one would normally dismiss if the issue weren't so important.
The truth is exactly the opposite.
Three-plus weeks ago, McGinty was in Eastern Washington touring the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River. While there, she made public comments regarding who should manage the river. In an article titled "Official Vows Federal Control of Reach," (Tri-City Herald, July 9) McGinty said, "The president is absolutely determined that the land remain in federal, public ownership."
Unfortunately, I believe that statement more accurately portrays the administration's position on other issues. Whether it's giving local educators more authority in running our schools or giving local leaders more authority over salmon-recovery decisions, their agenda is to gather and keep power in Washington, D.C., and mine is the direct opposite - I want to return power, money and decision-making authority to our local communities.
In the case of the Hanford Reach, and the administration's conflicting statements over who should manage Northwest resources, I think it would be incredibly hard for the administration to take one position on a 51-mile section of the Columbia River and then another for the rest of the river.
The administration's claim that it doesn't want to micro-manage Washington state natural resource decisions also runs counter to their position on the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project.
In this case, the administration wants to dictate land-management policy for seven Western states. It is a plan that is vehemently opposed by an overwhelming majority of local officials in the affected areas of those states, and it is opposed by every member of the House of representatives from the affected areas.
Yet, the administration is so committed to micro-managing our land in Washington state that they had Rep. Jim McDermott, of Seattle, offer an amendment to impose the administration's will on hundreds of communities in the Pacific Northwest that he doesn't represent. The amendment was voted down by every single House member from the affect areas.
If there's one thing few have ever accused me of being, it's anti-private property. In fact, the League of Private Property voters recently named me one of its champions on this issue. I would love to see a change in the administration's direction and would welcome the opportunity to work with them on private property rights.
Not true. My legislation is designed to protect the Pacific Northwest from outside forces in Washington, D.C., who want to make decisions for us. For the past several years, the only people micro-managing the Columbia River hydroelectric system have been officials of the Clinton Administration.
At the present time, Clinton administration officials in Washington, D.C., tell people in Washington state exactly how much water needs to run through the (federal) dams, how we should manage our fish program, when shippers can be on the river, when irrigators can take water from the river, and when people can fish.
Every time I have advanced the idea of taking authority from Washington, D.C., and putting the region in charge of decisions over the Columbia River, the Clinton administration has vigorously opposed those efforts.
My proposal does the opposite - it breaks the status quo. It begins the process of taking power away from the federal government for these decisions and returns them to the Northwest, and the people elected to Congress from the Northwest. This process will enhance local efforts to restore our creeks and streams, preserve salmon habitats and mark fish. These local programs will make significant strides to return salmon to the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound.
To date, the administration has not offered any response to my proposal than to attack it in the newspapers. I have just sent another letter to the White House asking for their concrete ideas for protecting our regional hydroelectric system from those who want to destroy it. My hope is that we can soon work together to settle what appear to be our shared goals on these difficult salmon issue:
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