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Port Slams Breaching of Snake River Damsby Bill Stewart
The Oregonian, May 11, 2000
Gov. John Kitzhaber asks commissioners to avoid
blanket support of options to keep the four dams
In an attempt to support both salmon and maritime trade,Port of Portland commissioners attacked the idea ofbreaching four Snake River dams.
A two-part statement adopted bythe Port on Wednesday said thekey to salmon recovery is inimproving the Columbia Riverdownstream from Portland, andto that end, the panel pledged totake the lead in habitatimprovements. That would help anumber of declining salmon runs, not just a handful in theSnake River.
But Gov. John Kitzhaber talked the group out of pledging tosupport any option that avoided the dams' removal.Kitzhaber, in an unusual visit to the Port's monthly meeting,said that approach was like a blank check, that alternativescould include actions as devastating to river trade as takingout the reservoirs. He cited one proposal to lower thereservoir behind John Day Dam, which also could halt bargetraffic.
River trade means $13 billion a year, 6,500 Portland jobsand 65,000 "influenced jobs in the region," Port officialssaid. River trade brings barges of grain -- 43 percent of allU.S. grain -- from as far as Lewiston, Idaho. Other cargoesinclude lumber, shipping containers, gasoline, gravel andeven garbage.
Kitzhaber said he was not arguing for or against removingthe dams but was concerned that the Port could trap itselfinto supporting ideas harmful to its mission.
Mike Thorne, Port executive director, said the commitmentto improve the Columbia River estuary is not a signal thatthe agency is forming yet another group. He said the Portwill work through the existing estuary study group and willpress other governments to help with financing.
Commissioner Michael Powell, a former commercialfisherman, said he thinks it is "exciting the Port is willing tosupport habitat work."
But Port President Bob Walsh expressed "lukewarmsupport. This is not very tough," he said. "I think we waffle."
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