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Everglades, Northwest Dams at Crossroads

by Dave Hogan
The Oregonian, April 3, 2000

Environmentalists hope support for a restoration project in Florida
will unclog channels for other waterway proposals

The idea of breaching four Snake River dams to help endangered fish is a new chapter in Northwest history, one that was unthinkable only 10 years ago.

Nationally, however, the Snake River is just one of a growing list of targets for environmental groups that are pushing to restore ailing waterways, even when it means removing significant portions of federal water-control projects.

The top target on that list is the Everglades. Decades ago, the same agency that erected the Northwest dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, built most of a vast network of canals, levees and pump stations in the Everglades that controls flooding. But it also damaged wildlife.

Now, both the Everglades and the Snake River dams stand at key crossroads. In the Northwest, federal officials are preparing to recommend whether the dams should be breached.

And in the East, Congress and Florida's Legislature will make their first decisions this year on whether to jointly fund an $8 billion proposal to restore the health of the Everglades. It would remove more than 240 miles of canals and levees.

But while dam-breaching continues to face heavy resistance, the Everglades proposal is attracting support among Republicans and Democrats in Congress and in Florida.

And environmental groups are pointing to that support as a sign that Congress may fund other large restoration projects -- such as breaching the Snake River dams, which environmentalists estimate would cost about $2 billion.

"The price tag on the Everglades project has really changed the rules of the game," said Scott Faber of American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based group. "We're about to spend $8 billion to replumb the Everglades. . . . In comparison, $2 billion doesn't sound so bad."

Dave Hogan
Everglades, Northwest Dams at Crossroads
The Oregonian, April 3, 2000

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