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GAO Criticizes Corps Study on Dam Breaching

by John Hughes, Associated Press
Seattle Times, July 26, 2000

WASHINGTON - A congressional study released yesterday says federal officials have not sufficiently studied the environmental impact of breaching four Snake River dams.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) report says an Army Corps of Engineers draft study, which examined the possibility of breaching the four dams in southeastern Washington, did not consider how removing the earthen portion of the structures would affect local air quality and human health.

The corps study also failed to examine certain pollutants, such as river sediment contaminants, which would be exposed as a result of breaching, the GAO report says.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said in a letter to the corps commander, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, that the results are "astonishing" given that the administration considers itself pro-environment.

"This should be another reason for taking dam removal off the table, not postponing it," Gorton said in an interview. The corps should go back to the environmental analysis and "do it right," he said.

But a corps spokesman said the agency is already doing a more complete environmental analysis.

The officials are taking the action based on concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Agency, among other groups and agencies, after the corps released its draft study in December, said Doug Arndt, an agency spokesman in Portland.

Gorton and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who are both dam-breaching opponents, asked the GAO to examine the corps study.

That study, at the request of senior corps officials, did not endorse breaching Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams as a way to recover salmon. Instead, the corps opted to study the issue more before releasing a final report, which is now expected early next year.

John Hughes, Associated Press
GAO Criticizes Corps Study on Dam Breaching
Seattle Times, July 26, 2000

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