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Seattle Officials Reach Out to East Side

by Hannelore Sudermann - Staff writer
Spokesman Review, December 14, 2000

City Council president, mayor say area leaders
should have been consulted about dam breaching resolution

Two Seattle city leaders are attempting to make amends for a resolution in support of dam breaching that angered officials in many Eastern Washington cities.

This week, Seattle City Council President Margaret Pageler wrote an open letter to Eastern Washington saying the council should have met with with parties on this side of the state before voting to support the removal of four Snake River dams. Her letter comes on the heels of a similar one written by Mayor Paul Schell.

Pageler's letter, addressed "Dear Eastern Washington" and sent to newspapers and other interested parties, states "we should have talked first."

Pageler was referring to a resolution the Seattle City Council passed in August -- during a meeting she wasn't able to attend.

The resolution of opinion, which was unanimously supported, stated that the council members believed four Snake River dams should be removed for the sake of the environment and endangered salmon.

Whitman County Commissioner Les Wigen and several other Eastern Washington leaders have lodged protests with the council, asking that the resolution be reconsidered because removal of the dams would damage the economies of a number of rural communities.

The Pullman City Council, the city of Clarkston and more than a dozen other Eastern Washington counties and cities wrote their own letters and resolutions condemning the Seattle action. Both the eastern and western divisions of the Washington Association of Counties passed resolutions asking the Seattle council to rescind its resolution.

The executive director of the Northwest Energy Coalition, which promotes energy conservation and saving salmon runs, said the Seattle council didn't take the matter lightly. City officials had been considering the subject of the dams for two years, Sara Patton said. If dam supporters wanted to influence their decision, "there was plenty of opportunity," she said.

Patton also said quite a few small communities in Western Washington have written to the Seattle council to support the action. The cities of Anchorage, Alaska, and Astoria, Ore., also supported it.

Pageler's letter is the second from a Seattle official to come east. Two weeks ago, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell wrote to a number of city mayors and county commissions, saying he did not support his council's resolution.

"In light of the continuing strong reaction from around the state, I believe the City Council today would agree that the resolution was not the best means for discussing what is a volatile and complex issue," he wrote.

His letter asks that the recipients "not allow their resolution to undermine or overshadow the progress that we have jointly made in dismantling the `Cascade divide.' "

Patton disagrees with that approach, saying that while many people in the Inland Northwest support keeping the dams, a large number have spoken out in favor of removing them.

"I don't think it's black and white, rural-urban, east versus west," Patton said. "The idea that this is simply a rural-urban split causes divisiveness."

Instead of responding to calls to reconsider the resolution, Pageler says in her letter that she will encourage meetings between the council and other parties interested in the Snake River dams.

She writes that the council will accept invitations extended by Eastern Washington officials to visit and see firsthand the dams and the communities in which they function.

According to Pageler's office, a first meeting on the subject could be arranged in January.

Commissioner Wigen in Whitman County said he's pleased with the responses from Pageler and Schell. Though he would like to see the resolution reconsidered, "My goal is not to force it," he said. "I don't think we can get them to rescind."

Wigen said he's looking forward to showing Seattle officials through the Lower Granite and Little Goose dams, the two dams in his county. The others are Ice Harbor and Lower Monumental dams, in Walla Walla and Franklin counties.

"This could be a benefit to us working together more and more," Wigen said.

Hannelore Sudermann, Staff writer
Seattle Officials Reach Out to East Side
Spokesman Review, December 14, 2000

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