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Former Governor Sees Dam Breaching as Impractical

by Associated Press
Casper Star Tribune, September 26, 2003

Farm Bureau pulls plug

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus remains convinced that the dams on lower Snake and Columbia rivers caused the demise of the region's salmon runs but breaching them today is not the answer to fish recovery.

"If the dams were not there, it would be the best for the salmon, but they're there," Andrus said. "Should they be removed, is that the answer? I think not. We have to be practical."

Delivering the annual Lane Family Lecture in Environmental Science to 300 people at Washington State University on Thursday, the former Carter administration interior secretary emphasized that breaching requires congressional approval so keeping it as the focus of the debate only means the fish will become extinct.

He called for retrofitting dams and dramatically revamping river management policies.

"We need a way to simulate a free-flowing stream," he said.

Andrus said the recent strong runs of salmon are the result of good snowpacks before 2001 that provided the runoff to flush more young salmon to the ocean. He called those recent runs a false sign of recovery, not evidence that the runs are coming back.

"'Gee, that's great,' they say. Baloney!" Andrus declared.

He also criticized President Bush and his lieutenants for failing to find consensus approaches to controversial issues, especially in the area of environmental protection.

"Time and time again this administration has precipitated a fight over ... well, you name the issue," Andrus said.

He pointed to the Kyoto climate treaty, water drawdowns in Florida's Everglades, weakening of clean air and water regulations and oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"This is the only area that hasn't felt the industrial footprint of man," said Andrus, whose tenure as interior secretary was marked by the passage of the Alaska Lands wilderness bill that included the refuge.

"It is a place that is so fragile it takes 100 square miles for a grizzly bear to forage," he said. "It takes 50 years for a tree to grow."

Andrus called on the president to let the newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, run the agency as he sees fit.

"I know Mike Leavitt, and he's a reasonable, intelligent man," Andrus said. "Maybe he doesn't have the best environmental record, but don't let (presidential adviser) Karl Rove run it from the White House."

Associated Press
Former Governor Sees Dam Breaching as Impractical
Casper Star Tribune, September 26, 2003

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