the film
Commentaries and editorials

Gore Avoids Dam Topic, Disappoints Supporters

by Mike Lee and Chris Mulick, Herald staff writers
Tri-City Herald, June 10, 2000

Vice President Al Gore scored big with his Hanford Reach announcement Friday but disappointed many of his environmental backers by failing to also champion breaching the four lower Snake River dams.

"The job isn't done," said Chris Zimmer at Save Our Wild Salmon in Seattle.

If elected president, Gore said, he would use an "inclusive approach based on solid science" to "bring all interested parties to find a real solution" to the Northwest salmon crisis. He said he wanted a "balanced approach" with broad regional support.

"I want you to know that I am deeply committed to saving and restoring the salmon of this region," Gore said. "Extinction is not an option, nor is massive economic relocation. I reject both extremes."

But he didn't attract much support from environmentalists, and Republican opponents accused him of poor leadership on salmon recovery.

"We have had enough of platitudes and attempts to bring us all together," said Jeff Curtis at Trout Unlimited in Portland. "We've had more Snake River studies than we have had Snake River sockeye returning to Redfish Lake.

"In short, we have had enough."

At the Gore rally in Richland - just a few miles upstream from where the Snake River flows into the Columbia - partisans tried not to detract from the Hanford Reach national monument designation by expressing disappointment in their party's man.

But the mood about Gore's dam "vision" was reserved. "I hope he will show the same leadership on the Snake River salmon" as he did on the Reach, said Kell McAboy, with Save Our Wild Salmon in Spokane.

American Rivers, one of the nation's leading conservation groups, issued a press release at the Richland rally that said, "Snake River dams next after Hanford Reach."

"To secure this administration's legacy and save the salmon, we need a Hanford Reach for the Snake River," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "For Snake River salmon, delay equals extinction."

And in Spokane on Friday, disgruntled environmentalists lobbied Gore again for dam removal at the state Democratic convention.

Some protesters carried signs, others wore colorful fish hats.

"We want more of a science based decision and not as politicized as this seems to be heading," said Harvey Morrison of Spokane. "It sounds like we're going to get promised four or five more years of waiting. The fish can't wait that long."

Chris Zimmer, a spokesman for the Environmental Advocacy Group Save Our Wild Salmon, was pleased with the announcement of national monument status for the Hanford Reach. He now hopes Gore will apply the same environmental principles and endorse dam breaching.

"We're hoping he's going to take the same kind of leadership and apply it to the Snake," he said.

Environmentalists are pushing hard for high-level support of their efforts to remove the four dams between Pasco and Lewiston in an attempt to increase salmon survival. Federal agencies are putting the finishing touches on a multifaceted plan to restore Columbia Basin salmon - and Gore seemed content Friday to let that process continue, although environmentalists have nagged him for his position on dams for months.

Gore's Richland speech - which included references to the river songs of Woody Guthrie - didn't directly address the lower Snake dams. But it acknowledged the importance of the harnessed Columbia River for electricity, irrigation water and shipping.

"I'll make sure that as we restore salmon, we will do it in a way that is fair to the region," Gore said. "Environmental protection and economic growth go hand in hand. They must go hand in hand here, too, in the Columbia Basin. And they can, and they will."

And Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., trumpeted Gore as the best man for saving salmon.

"Too often, we hear the voices ... who tell us what they won't do while offering no plan of their own," she said.

Mike Lee and Chris Mulick
Gore Avoids Dam Topic, Disappoints Supporters
Tri-City Herald, June 10, 2000

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation