Gore Should Speak Out on Damsby Opinion Editorial
The Oregonian, May 11, 2000
Northwest voters need to hear Gore's approach
Vice President Al Gore, who makes his first presidential campaign trip to Oregon Friday, has yet to speak out on the Northwest's most controversial environmental issue -- the proposed breaching of four dams on the lower Snake River. That's unacceptable, especially since four agencies of the Clinton-Gore administration can't seem to agree on what to do about the dams.
Oregon voters deserve to hear how Gore feels about dam breaching, what he would recommend to save imperiled Northwest salmon if he were president, and how his position differs from that of his Republican rival George W. Bush.
Bush has denounced dam breaching as a foolhardy gamble with the region's economy -- a position he is expected to renew when he visits Oregon May 16.
Gore, however, has been conspicuously silent about the Snake River dams. In winning his party's Washington state primary in February, Gore said not a single word on the subject.
What makes Gore's silence especially troubling for voters is that the Clinton administration is sending so many mixed signals about dam breaching.
For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service favors dam breaching to help restore the fish. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service is about to issue its biological opinion saying that the decision should be put on hold for five to 10 years while other recovery strategies are tried and monitored.
Last December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as part of its four-year, $20 million study of the dams, was set to propose leaving the dams in place. But the White House yanked that recommendation off the table in what clearly seemed a political decision.
Just recently, the Environmental Protection Agency suggested that the Snake River dam operation violated the Clean Water Act with regard to water temperatures, and that the corps' study failed to address the problem. Though the EPA stopped short of recommending a single remedy, it implied that dam breaching would work.
And just last month, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the administration's most vociferous critic of dams that block or hinder fish passage, surprised environmentalists when he told a congressional panel that science and economic studies of dam breaching must be sharpened before a recommendation is made. "This decision is not going to be made on my watch," he said.
That's precisely what Northwest voters should be asking Al Gore: Should he become president, what's going to happen to those dams on his watch?
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