NW Reps Vote to Override
by Matthew Daly, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- With unanimous support from Northwest lawmakers, the House voted Tuesday to overturn President Bush's veto of a $23.2 billion water resources bill that includes more than $100 million for projects in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
If approved by the Senate, the override would be the first since Bush took office in 2001. The 361-54 vote in the House included support from all 16 House members from the three Northwest states, and showed that support for local water and flood control projects trumped Republican loyalty to the White House. All six Republicans from Washington, Oregon and Idaho backed the override.
"This bill may not be perfect, but I disagree with President Bush and support enacting it into law," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. "I've been trying to get several local matters fixed for several years and this bill would get the job done."
"By overriding the president's veto, the House preserved funding for programs that that increase job opportunities, increase economic development in our communities, promote public safety and protect our local environment," said Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash.
The bill allows the Port of Pasco, Wash., to develop riverfront property, supports the Sunnyside, Wash. port's wastewater wetland project and "gives fairness to union workers at federal dams by letting them participate in wage surveys," Hastings said.
Hastings has been pushing for a measure to allow unionized workers at Pacific Northwest dams run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to participate in federal studies to determine their pay. Workers at dams run by the Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation currently have that ability, and Hastings called it a matter of fairness to extend it to the corps.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also cited local concerns as he supported the override.
"Oregon and the Northwest depend greatly on the international trade that flows in and out of our ports, so overriding this veto ensures our river systems, navigational infrastructure, and ports can maintain the critical infrastructure that's vital to our economic well-being," Walden said.
The water bill authorizes more than million in federal funding for water projects in the Northwest, including $35 million to promote wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers; $35 million for a wastewater project in Albany, Ore; and $5 million to improve fish passage at federal dams.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said the bill would streamline delivery of water transportation projects and permits, increase recreational opportunities in Idaho and make important repairs to agricultural and flood control infrastructure in the state.
"Our water quality has improved dramatically as a result of cooperative efforts between federal, state and local governments. It is important that we work to increase and maintain a balance between our nation's need to use, consume and develop water with the needs of the environment," Simpson said.
In Washington, projects include erosion control on Puget Island and flood control in Centralia, while Idaho projects include improvements of the Dworshak Reservoir near Orofino and the Fish Creek Dam in Blaine County.
The bill is H.R. 1495.
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