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Presidential Candidates
Stake Out Dam Differences

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - November 3, 2000

The two major party candidates for president have staked out sharply differing positions on the environment, including specifically the proposal to tear down four dams on the lower Snake River to save salmon.

But Green Party standard-bearer Ralph Nader has drawn some environmental support away from Gore in the Northwest by taking a harder line against commercial logging and suggesting he would consider dam breaching. According to the Seattle Times, Nader supports removing the Snake River dams and reforming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' environmental standards for dams and waterway projects.

Republican George W. Bush, the Texas governor, declared he staunchly opposed breaching the dams during the Washington Republican primary campaign in February. Bush went on to win the Feb. 28 primary with strong support from eastern Washington, where the dams are located and anti breaching sentiment runs high. At the urging of Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., Bush criticized his rival, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for not ruling out the option for restoring several endangered salmon runs.

Since winning the GOP nomination, Bush has turned his fire on his general election opponent, Vice President Al Gore. Bush criticizes Gore for failing to take a definitive position on whether he would support breaching the Snake dams. "We're not going to breach the dams if I'm president," Bush told the Oregonian in August.

"People have been able to make a living off rivers and at the same time coexist with nature," Bush told a Spokane rally this fall. Eastern Washington is dotted with Republican campaign signs that urge voters to "Save the Dams" by supporting Bush and Sen. Slade Gorton and Rep. George Nethercutt, both R-Wash.

Gore endorses the Clinton administration's draft Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan, which was released in July. It defers decisions of dam removal for five to 10 years in favor of habitat restoration and a host of other alternatives. "Extinction is not an option nor is massive economic dislocation," he has said in statements on the issue.

At the same time, Gore pledges to follow scientific experts and to host a Northwest "salmon summit" next year if he is elected. It would focus on reaching a regional public consensus on a salmon plan and would be modeled after President Clinton's 1993 Northwest forest summit in Portland. That conference, with Gore's participation, led to Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan for protecting spotted owl habitat and about 80 percent of old-growth forests on the west side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and northern California.

"I want to bring all parties together," Gore told the Seattle Post Intelligencer in September. "I intend to consult first before deciding where and when." He told a Puget Sound voter "the salmon represent the linchpin of this whole region's balance between the economy and the environment."

Tim Hermach, head of the Native Forest Council in Eugene, Ore., is leading a group called Environmentalists Against Gore and supporting Nader. The Sierra Club, which supports removing the Snake dams, Oregon Natural Resources Council and other more mainstream environmental groups support Gore and argue that voting for Nader will result in electing Bush.

Nader's running mate, Native American activist Winoria LaDuke, told a Portland rally in August, "We are people who know you must breach some dams to save some salmon."

While opposing dam removal, Bush has not outlined an alternative recovery plan for endangered and threatened Columbia Basin anadromous fish. He has suggested that technological improvements to Columbia and Snake river dams - such as "fish friendly" turbines -- can go a long way toward solving the problem of salmon mortality.

Don Sampson, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, has faulted the Republican on that score. "We're concerned he doesn't have a strategy" Sampson told the Oregonian in May.

Gore campaign environmental adviser Kathleen McGinty, former head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality for Clinton, said Bush's stand would undermine the salmon recovery plan's ability to withstand legal challenge and could led to court-ordered remedies for the federal hydropower system. "He is jeopardizing the environmental and the economic health of the region because that irresponsible set of sound bites dramatically increases the possibility the courts are going to be running this region," McGinty said during appearances in Portland in September.

Bush and Gore also differ sharply over management of national forests in the Northwest and nationwide.

Gore supports strengthening the Forest Service's plan to protect up to 54 million acres of roadless land. In addition to banning roads, Gore promises that if elected, he would ban logging in old-growth areas.

By contrast, Bush favors increased logging in the Northwest and criticizes the Clinton administration's regional forest plan for falling short of its goals to protect spotted-owl habitat and produce timber. He promises to review the roadless area plan and other Clinton administration executive orders, national monument designations and environmental regulations.

"(If) I'm the president, I'm going to consult with the people of Oregon before I do anything unilaterally out of Washington," Bush told the Oregonian in August. Northwest Republican members of Congress have complained the administration failed to adequately involve the public and consult with state and local leaders about the roadless plan and designation of the Hanford Reach and other monuments.

Biologists consider roadless and old-growth areas important to maintaining salmon and other fish spawning and rearing habitat, which can be damaged by siltation from logging and roads. Clinton protected the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River in Washington state partly because it includes the main spawning habitat of upper Columbia fall chinook, which are not endangered.

by Staff
Presidential Candidates Stake Out Dam Differences
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 3, 2000

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