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Locke Soundly Against Breaching

by Chris Mulick
Tri-City Herald, February 23, 2000

OLYMPIA - Washington Gov. Gary Locke offered his strongest opposition yet to breaching the four lower Snake River dams Tuesday, rebutting the stance of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Kitzhaber became the first major elected official to endorse breaching when he announced Friday in Seattle his support for dam removal.

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

But Locke, strengthening his stance against dam re-moval, took issue with his colleague's remarks.

"I very strongly disagree with Gov. Kitzhaber," Locke said at a Tuesday morning news conference. "I do not support the breaching of the dams."

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

On several trips to the Tri-Cities in the past year, Locke said 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."

In the meantime, Locke said he still is committed to finding ways to help replenish struggling 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."

Such comments were welcomed by other breaching opponents. Don Brunell, who heads up the Association of Washington Business, on Monday had called for Locke to counter Kitzhaber's remarks by reaffirming his stance.

"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."

Supporters of dam removal say their side is gaining momentum after a series of recent hearings on the issue throughout the Northwest.

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

Related Links:
Governor John Kitzhaber's American Fisheries Society Speech

Chris Mulick
Locke Soundly Against Breaching
Tri-City Herald, February 23, 2000

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