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Oregon Governor Sides with Proponents of Dam Breaching

Wood River Journal - February 23, 2000

Public sentiment to breach the lower Snake River dams picked up an important ally on Friday as Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber endorsed just such a measure as the best way to save threatened salmon and steelhead populations.

The Democratic governor endorsed the breach option as part of a speech he made in Eugene before the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

"If salmon extinctions occur, it will not be the first time in our history and probably not the last," Kitzhaber said. "But it will be the first time a species has been allowed to become extinct in Oregon and in the Northwest -- in the face of strong evidence of how that fate might be avoided.

"My choice is to reject the guiltless complacency that has permitted the drift toward extinction and to simply do what needs to be done," he added.

The announcement by a politician as high up the ladder as Kitzhaber is music to to the ears of conservation and environmental activists throughout the Northwest.

"This is a courageous step by the Governor, and clearly the right step," said Pat Ford, executive director of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. "As the Oregon hearings have shown, the Governor is in step with the people of this region. We are thrilled that he has moved foward on this issue and hope that other leaders will follow."

"We commend Governor Kitzhaber for showing the political courage and leadership to face a very difficult decision and to do what's right for the fish and for the region," said Jeff Curtis, western regional director with Trout Unlimited. "Way to go, Governor."

While Kitzhaber might have stepped up to the plate in favor of breaching, other western governors have opposed such meaures. Washington Governor Gary Locke, whose state is the actual home to the four dams in questioin, has oposed breaching, stating that overall benefits do not outweigh costs.

Idaho's Dirk Kempthorne also opposes breaching due to economic, biological and political considerations.

After public hearings in Boise, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls over the next couple of weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers will include the comments, as well as others into the future, in an environmental impact statement and recommendation by the fall 2000, with a final decision expected by 2001.

Oregon Governor Sides with Proponents of Dam Breaching
Wood River Journal February 23, 2000

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