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Lawmakers: Study Dam Breaching

Dave Hogan
The Oregonian, August 5, 1999

U.S. House members ask the president to weigh all options in efforts to save Snake River runs

WASHINGTON -- In a letter to President Clinton on Wednesday, 107 House members asked that all options -- including dam breaching -- be considered for restoring Snake River salmon and steelhead trout.

The letter said that the restoration of salmon "is an issue of national importance as well as a key concern in the Pacific Northwest" and that the United States had made treaty commitments to tribes and Canada to restore salmon.

The letter did not take a position on breaching four Snake River dams in southeastern Washington -- Lower Monument, Lower Granite, Little Goose and Ice Harbor -- but it singled out breaching as an option that should be kept open.

"Without prompt and impartial consideration of all scientifically credible alternatives for the recovery of salmon on the Snake River, we risk the loss of both money and the nation's natural resources," the letter said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying a range of alternatives for responding to declines in the numbers of Snake River salmon and steelhead, and dam breaching is one of those options. The corps is expected to make its recommendation by early next year.

Wednesday's letter came two weeks after the House Resources Committee approved a nonbinding resolution introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., that expressed opposition to dam breaching on the Snake River. Hastings and others, including Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., have said the costs in lost hydropower production, irrigation and river navigation make dam breaching unreasonable.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also an opponent of dam breaching, said after the committee vote last month that the Hastings resolution appeared to lack enough votes for passage on the House floor. But, he added, the Senate probably would reject any dam breaching proposal.

Representatives signing the letter to Clinton included 95 Democrats and 12 Republicans, led by Thomas Petri, R-Wis., and George Miller, D-Calif.

Oregon's four Democratic representatives -- Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley and David Wu -- signed, as did two Washington Democrats, Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott.

Republicans signing the letter included Sherwood Boehlert, Benjamin Gilman and Sue Kelly of New York; Tom Campbell and Steve Horn of California; Nancy Johnson of Connecticut; and James Leach of Iowa.

A coalition of taxpayer and environmental groups worked to drum up support for the Clinton letter, distributing a joint message to members of Congress asking them to add their names to it. Those groups included American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Save Our Wild Salmon, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Trout Unlimited and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Petri and Miller also wrote a June 21 letter urging their fellow representatives to sign the letter to Clinton, noting that "some feel that mere analysis of the dam removal option poses a threat to all dam operations in the Pacific Northwest." They stressed that keeping all options under consideration would make sure that federal agencies and Congress would have all the facts for making their decisions.

Wednesday's letter to the president asked that all scientifically credible options "be considered with equal rigor and seriousness, and be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and economic mitigation studies."

"We particularly urge you to oppose any appropriations riders, bills or agency attempts to circumvent relevant laws or postpone prompt consideration of a full range of salmon recovery options on the Snake River," the letter said.

Dave Hogan
Lawmakers: Study Dam Breaching
The Oregonian - August 5, 1999

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