the film
Commentaries and editorials

Babbitt Not Budging

on Eastern Washington Dams

Press Release from U.S. Senator Slade Gorton's office - April 22, 1999

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt made clear today that he still wants the Clinton-Gore Administration to be able to remove (federal)dams in Washington state without the approval of Congress or local citizens. Babbitt made his comments today in an appearance before U.S. Senator Slade Gorton's Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

Gorton made the following comments in response to Babbitt's pronouncement:

Secretary Babbitt's remarks today on eastern Washington dams and Elwha were incredibly disappointing. For over a year now, the Secretary of the Interior and I have negotiated solutions that would remove the lower Elwha river Dam while providing protection for dams on the Columbia-Snake river system.

Unfortunately, Secretary Babbitt's refusal today to take the option of Columbia-Snake River dam removal off the table illustrates that the Pacific Northwest's economic foundation is still at risk of being destroyed by the Clinton-Gore Administration. Secretary Babbitt's unwillingness to drop dam removal as a means to restore salmon runs in the Columbia Basin puts him at odds with the majority of Pacific Northwest citizens, our congressional delegation, Senator Murray and Governor Locke.

Today's hearing should have been the first step toward a positive and productive exercise in trying to come to an agreement on Elwha and Columbia and Snake river dams. My exhaustive efforts to provide the Secretary and his Administration with workable solutions failed late last year. Today, I was hoping to get off to a better start, but the Clinton-Gore Administration has made clear to Northwest families that they believe dam removal must remain a viable option for salmon recovery. This is just another example of an Administration committed to dictating decisions rather than letting us bring solutions to them.


The dam removal advocacy of Secretary Babbitt and Vice President Gore illustrate just how far this Administration is from Washington state families when it comes to salmon recovery. We want more salmon, and we're willing to come up with progressive, innovative and even sacrificial decisions to reach those goals, but we're not willing to make decisions outside the bounds of common sense.

Washington's hydroelectric system has created an abundant agriculture industry, bolstering our state's thriving economy. Should those dams come down in eastern Washington, our entire state's economy and communities will suffer. I stand with my eastern Washington residents in expressing my profound belief that this Administration wants to use Elwha as a test case for dismantling dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Administration must recognize the importance eastern Washington dams have for all Northwest families and communities and abandon its calls for dam removal.

Despite this latest negative statement from the Administration, I will not stop working for answers that benefit everyone. Some will criticize me for not simply letting the Administration dictate this decision for us, but I believe a positive resolution can be found that answers the concerns of people on the Olympic Peninsula and Eastern Washington. And I won't rest on this issue until I reach that goal. But clearly, Secretary Babbitt is not committed to finding a solution.

Slade Gorton - United States Senator representing Washington State
Babbitt Not Budging on Eastern Washington Dams
Press Release from U.S. Senator Slade Gorton's office - April 22, 1999

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