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Northwest Governors Split over Breaching of Four Dams

by Associated Press
The Idaho Statesman, February 24, 2000

Washington's chief joins Kempthorne in opposing action

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington Gov. Gary Locke has strengthened his stance against breaching four lower Snake River dams since Oregon's John Kitzhaber became the only Northwest governor to endorse the idea.

"I very strongly disagree with Gov. Kitzhaber," Locke said. "I do not support the breaching of the dams."

Kitzhaber announced his probreaching stance Friday. Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne says removing the earthen portions on the dams is not the answer to salmon recovery.

On other occasions, Locke has hedged on his opposition, frustrating some dam supporters. Those include irrigators, barge operators and aluminum companies that rely on the current river system to provide water for crops, river transportation and cheap electricity.

Over the past year, Locke has told Kennewick-area audiences that he "can't conceive of any argument that will lead me to support the breaching of the dams," but would not say he opposed it when asked directly.

That changed Tuesday.

"I think it's fair to say he's strengthened his position," said Ed Penhale, a Locke spokesman. "He's become less convinced there's any other option." (huh?- bluefish)

Locke said he remains committed to finding ways to help replenish fish runs.

"Those of us who are opposed to breaching the dams must work to find other alternatives or options to help in the recovery of salmon," he said. "It's simply not enough to say we oppose the breaching of the dams."

Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, said he had urged Locke to counter Kitzhaber's remarks.

"Our concern was we wanted to make sure the political leadership in this state isn't in the same position," Brunell said Tuesday. "We are very encouraged by (Locke's) statements."

Breaching supporters say their side is gaining momentum in hearings on the issue throughout the Northwest, including a gathering Wednesday in Boise.

"Gov. Kitzhaber's statement kind of bolsters that," said Mark Glyde with the Seattle-based Northwest Energy Coalition. "We just hope he (Locke) doesn't rule it out completely."

Kitzhaber acknowledged his position was a lonely one, but said it is necessary to fairly spread the economic burden of reversing the decline in wild salmon populations.

"The salmon can't wait," Kitzhaber said. "The people can't wait."

Breaching would render useless the four dams' hydroelectric-generation and lock navigation systems.

Associated Press
Northwest Governors Split over Breaching of Four Dams
The Idaho Statesman, February 24, 2000

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