Dam Breaching gets Supportby Les Blumenthal, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
Spokesman Review, September 13, 2000
Clinton official's opinion met with hostility
WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration's top environmental official told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday that breaching four dams in Eastern Washington would be the best way to restore endangered wild salmon runs on the Snake River.
The comments from George Frampton, acting chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, were perhaps the most direct to date by a Clinton administration official since the issue of breaching the four dams became the focal point of how best to rebuild the runs.
But Frampton's comments were met with open hostility by three Republican senators from the Northwest, including Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington. Gorton, along with Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Larry Craig of Idaho, made it clear they would block any effort by the administration to even study breaching the dams.
Gorton said he would introduce legislation preventing the use of any federal funds toward dam breaching, calling the administration's latest plan for saving the fish "highly unrealistic" and "divisive."
The administration has proposed a series of measures aimed at ensuring dam breaching would be a last resort only if all else failed. Among other things, the plan calls for strict controls to restore critical salmon habitat on federal and private lands, further restrictions on fishing and an overhaul of a hatchery system that produces fish which can compete with wild stocks.
"The single most important thing we can do for fish is take out dams," Frampton said as a two-and-a-half-hour hearing before the water and power subcommittee of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee drew to an end.
Frampton, however, said the costs were too high and too many nagging scientific uncertainties persisted to proceed immediately with dam breaching. He defended the administration's plan to revive the Snake River fish runs, but warned if no progress was made in five years dam breaching might be the only alternative.
Frampton also defended the administration's intention of asking Congress for funding to start engineering studies of breaching the dams even before the five-year period had elapsed. Without those studies, Frampton said the region risked a federal judge stepping in and ordering the removal of the dams under the Endangered Species Act.
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