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Sen. Smith says Dam Breach would Endanger Eastern Oregon Lifestyle

Jonathan Brinckman, The Oregonian - June 27, 1999

UMATILLA -- The values and way of life of Eastern Oregon are under attack from people seeking to remove federal dams to help endangered salmon, U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith told about 300 people at a rally Saturday below McNary Dam.

The rally was held as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service study breaching four federal dams on the lower Snake River -- Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite. A recommendation is due late this year or early next year. Nothing will happen unless first approved by Congress.

McNary and other dams on the lower Columbia are not under consideration for removal. But organizers of Saturday's rally said they oppose breaching any dams because such an action could set a dangerous precedent.

"Those (Snake River) dams are just the start," said Umatilla Mayor George A. Hash. "These dams are next on the hit list."

Speakers at the rally, including local political leaders and state legislators, urged vocal opposition to dam breaching, which involves removing the earthen portion so the river flows unimpeded past the concrete structure.

"It's time to draw a line in the sand," said State Rep. Mark Simmons, R-Elgin. "This is a debate about our future and the responsible use of the God-given resources that we have."

State Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, said staving off people who want to breach the dams will require a long, hard fight. "It has the overtones of a religious war," he said. "They want to change our way of life."

Smith, an Oregon Republican, said there are ways to restore salmon runs while retaining dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, such as investing in devices that make it easier for fish to get past dams.

"I will ask you to sacrifice," Smith said. "I will not ask You to commit economic suicide."

Jonathan Brinckman
Sen. Smith Says Dam Breach Would Endanger Eastern Oregon Lifestyle
The Oregonian - June 27, 1999

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