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Bush to Pay Visit to Snake Dam

by Staff
The Idaho Statesman, August 21, 2003

President will discuss salmon recovery efforts

George W. Bush President Bush will step back into one of the Northwest´s most contentious issues on Friday when he visits a dam on the Snake River in Washington to discuss salmon recovery.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush came out strongly in favor of saving four dams on the Snake River that environmentalists contend should be breached to save wild salmon runs.

On Friday, he will visit one of those dams, Ice Harbor, east of Pasco, Wash., before traveling to the Seattle area later in the day.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, a Pasco Republican, predicted that Bush will reaffirm his support for the dams.

“He´ll also point out that ... fish runs are coming back in record numbers,” Hastings said.

But Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said in Idaho this week that the dams will be breached, despite the Bush administration´s opposition.

Babbitt said at a fund-raiser Tuesday in Ketchum for salmon recovery that there is virtually no long-term economic reason to keep the four dams standing.

“They´ve got to come down,” he said, adding that economic arguments are trivial. “The question is how.”

He added the Bush administration is not looking for a resolution but, rather, to grind the opposition into oblivion.

“It´s going to be like Woody Hayes football — three yards and a cloud of dust,” Babbitt said of the late Ohio State coach.

Washington Democratic chairman Paul Berendt contended Bush was more interested in spreading a message of saving the dams than saving the fish.

“I think it´s just pandering to the (conservative) base,” Berendt said.

“In many ways,” he said, “the whole issue of the salmon is just changing the subject from the economy, which is really on everyone´s mind.”

But Washington GOP chairman Chris Vance said the president has a good understanding of the West´s love of the land.

“The president wants a balance,” Vance said. “He doesn´t want to do anything radical, like tear down the dams.”

Joseph Bogard of Save Our Wild Salmon in Seattle said Bush has not lived up to his campaign commitment to protect dams and salmon. Bush has never asked for more than 50 percent of the federal funds needed to implement a federal recovery plan, Bogard said.

In May, a federal judge threw out the government´s plan for managing the Columbia and Snake river basins on grounds it failed to comply with requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

That plan focused on restoring the salmon runs by improving habitat and hatchery operations and limiting harvest without breaching dams.

The governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana met in June to map out a salmon recovery strategy that balanced fish and economic interests without breaching the four dams.

They forwarded their recommendations to the Bush administration.

Bush to Pay Visit to Snake Dam
The Idaho Statesman, August 21, 2003

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