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Breaching Divides GOP Candidates

by Associated Press
Spokesman Review, April 21, 2000

Three of eight candidates for Congress want dams bypassed to try to save salmon, steelhead

BOISE _ Three of the eight Republicans hoping to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage advocate breaching four lower Snake River dams in Washington to restore Idaho's declining salmon runs.

But four others said breaching the dams is premature and could cripple Idaho's agricultural economy.

"When you go to vote, remember, there are I and other candidates up here that want to take out the dams to save our wild salmon and steelhead," Gene Summa of Boise said during Wednesday night's Ada County Republican Women's Club debate.

Summa was among seven of the eight Republicans running for the 1st District congressional nomination who participated in the event. David Shepherd of Lewiston did not appear.

The candidates agreed on almost all of the issues they were asked about, and were united in criticizing federal regulations they characterized as heavy-handed.

Breaching the dams was the one topic that divided them.

"The issue is not the dams," said Dennis Mansfield, co-founder and former head of the Idaho Family Forum. "The issue, really, truly, is the predators."

He said Idaho's salmon and steelhead populations are being depleted by predators such as Caspian terns and by humans plucking them from the rivers between their spawning beds.

Craig Benjamin of Moscow said he believes it remains possible to find a workable solution to the salmon dilemma. But Harley Brown of Boise disagreed.

"I come down on the side of the environmentalists, the tree-huggers, the hippies, and the Native Americans," Brown said. "I'm in favor of breaching the dams."

He said the dams should be breached for at least a decade to see if breaching helps fish stocks recover.

Former state GOP chairman Ron McMurray, who stepped down from his Republican post to run and who has run the Port of Lewiston, said he would never spend taxpayer dollars to breach the dams.

Lt. Gov. Butch Otter said Idaho electric ratepayers could see a threefold increase in power bills if the Snake River dams were breached.

Jim Pratt, who garnered almost 30 percent of the vote in a 1998 race against Chenoweth-Hage, said he preferred breaching the dams to letting the federal government use Idaho water to flush young salmon downstream.

Associated Press
Breaching Divides GOP Candidates
Spokesman Review, April 21, 2000

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