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Dams Get Support from D.C. Leaders

by Mike Lee
Tri-City Herald, March 17, 2000

As spring salmon get ready to make their spawning runs up the Columbia River, national politicians are lining up to support the Snake River dams some want removed to help fish.

U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said in a letter released Thursday that he would oppose any efforts by the government to get money from Congress for dam breaching.

"Removing these facilities is not the solution to the salmon problem," the Illinois Republican stated in a letter to Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash. "Salmon and dams can coexist."

Nethercutt and Hastert flew over the dams last summer and "have discussed the issue at length," according to a press release from the Washington congressman.

Hastert isn't the first politician from outside the Northwest to jump into the fray over Snake salmon. In the last few weeks, there's been plenty of attention to the cause since Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., apparently became the first in Congress to publicly support dam breaching.

"One of my jobs is to look after national resources like salmon," said Udall, son of the Interior Department secretary for presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

"I can remember (my father) rooting for salmon, and I am proud to follow his lead," Udall stated in a letter to the Clinton administration.

A few days later, however, Alaska's powerful Republican bloc in Congress expressed deep reservations about the effectiveness of dam breaching in recovering distressed fish stocks.

It appears the National Marine Fisheries Service might feel the same. This week at the Northwest Power Planning Council's meeting in Richland, hallway talk was about how federal agencies are moving away from dam breaching as a recommended option for fish recovery.

Yakama Nation wildlife program manager William Bradley, for instance, said he had no faith in the federal hydropower plan to be released in the next few months. Northwest tribes have pushed hard for Snake dam removal, and Bradley said that even if that option is taken off the table now, "We will never back off."

Backing off is exactly what the Oregon Cattlemen's Association wants from Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has become one of the more prominent proponents of dam breaching. The association is mulling a recall drive to get Kitzhaber tossed from office for his stance on dams, according to The Associated Press.

Even the cattlemen admit it's a long shot given Kitzhaber's high approval ratings, but they want to send a message.

"Everybody's frustrated," John Hays, president of the association told the AP. "We're out here fighting for our lives, and it would sure be nice to have some support from the governor."

Mike Lee
Dams Get Support from D.C. Leaders
Tri-City Herald, March 17, 2000

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