Gorton Drops Anti-Breaching Riderby Staff
In the face of a presidential veto threat, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., on Thursday agreed to drop his spending bill rider to prohibit studies of federal dam removal in the Columbia Basin.
The one-year funding restriction was added last week to the final FY01 interior appropriations bill by a vote of 9-5 by the House-Senate conference committee. This week, Gorton and other House and Senate interior appropriations subcommittee members met with White House officials to try to overcome administration objections to the bill.
Gorton's amendment would have prevented funding for any federal agency to "remove or breach any dam that is part of the federal Columbia River power system." Also, it would have barred spending to engineer or design the dams' removal or to plan or study "methods of mitigating the economic or cultural impact of the removal or breach of any such dam."
Gorton initially refused to take out the anti-dam breaching amendment in a meeting on Wednesday with President Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and Council on Environmental Quality Chairman George Frampton.
But on Thursday, Gorton took out the measure apparently because of continued veto threats. The senator, who chairs the Senate interior appropriations subcommittee, has said he wants a bill that Congress will pass and that Clinton will sign.
"I'm amazed by this administration's insistence to keep dam removal on the table," Gorton said in a statement issued Thursday by his re-election campaign. "The White House decided today that they want to keep the door open for dam removal and let (Vice President) Al Gore decide what should happen to the Snake River dams."
Gore has supported the administration's approach of developing a comprehensive Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan that would not breach the four lower Snake River dams but would still leave the option available for the future, if needed. Gore's presidential election opponent, Republican George W. Bush, has strongly opposed the proposal and said it should not be considered.
Also this week, former CEQ Chairman environmental advisor Katie McGinty, a Gore campaign advisor, criticized Bush's stand. In news interviews in Portland on Wednesday, McGinty said "any scientifically credible recovery plan for salmon would have to leave open the option of breaching the dams."
Gorton was disappointed at the loss of his amendment, his spokesman told Associated Press. "It was pretty clear they (administration officials) are insistent on keeping this dam removal option open next year," Todd Young said.
Council on Environmental Quality officials would not comment Friday on the development, because negotiations on the interior spending bill were continuing.
Frampton previously told Gorton he did not expect the administration to need funds in FY01 for the purposes that would be barred by the rider. But he argued it could "undermine the legal and scientific defensibility of the federal agencies' salmon recovery strategy, particularly in the event that Congress does not act to support the administration's comprehensive plan."
He said the prohibition on studies and planning was "exceedingly broad and may impair programs of other agencies besides the (Army Corps of Engineers)" and would "interfere with the development of a comprehensive approach to salmon recovery."
Frampton said that Gorton's amendment could affect the outcome of an environmental lawsuit that is widely expected to be filed against the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion on the Columbia Snake hydropower system. A final BiOp is due by the end of the year.
Federal Caucus: www.SalmonRecovery.gov
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs