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GOP Platform to Oppose Breaching Snake Dams

by Les Blumenthal, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
The Idaho Statesman, July 29, 2000

WASHINGTON -- The national Republican Party platform likely will include strong language opposing the breaching of four lower Snake River dams to restore endangered salmon runs, an aide to the co-chairman of the group writing the GOP natural resources plank said Friday.

The effort to include such language came just a day after the White House released a plan that would put off a decision on whether to breach the dams for five years, but in the meantime allow for an engineering study of that possibility.

Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., was in Philadelphia on Friday writing the conservation, agriculture and natural resources section of the party platform. Hastings, along with Cate Zenske, Wisconsin state revenue secretary, co-chairs the group.

The Republican National Convention starts Monday in Philadelphia. The full platform committee will consider the document today, and then it will be taken up by the full convention, probably Monday.

"We are confident the Republican platform will include strong language opposing breaching," said Jennifer Scott, Hastings' press secretary, adding there also will be language urging that state and local officials be given a greater role in land management decisions and urging new measures to aid financially hard-pressed farmers.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the expected Republican presidential nominee, has emerged as a vocal opponent of dam breaching and continually criticized the administration and his likely opponent in the fall campaign, Vice President Al Gore, for not ruling out breaching.

Scott said dam breaching no longer is just a parochial issue and has generated attention nationally.

"That's why we are so confident we can get it in the platform," she said.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., the leading opponent of dam breaching on Capitol Hill, welcomed the move.

"This will send a powerful message and show the Republican Party's commitment to keeping the dams and protecting the people of eastern Washington," said Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for Gorton.

But Democrats said Gorton, Bush and other Republicans just continue to try to politicize a non-issue.

"The issue of dam breaching is academic now that the administration's biologic opinion (plan), which stresses non-breaching alternatives, is out," said George Behan, press secretary for Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

Les Blumenthal, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
GOP Platform to Oppose Breaching Snake Dams
The Idaho Statesman, July 29, 2000

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