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Gorton Says Removal of Snake River Dams Would be Disaster

by John Hughes, Associated Press
Seattle Times, July 28, 1999

WASHINGTON - Removing the four Snake River dams in southeastern Washington state would be an "unmitigated disaster and an economic nightmare," costing the Pacific Northwest more than $299 million a year, Sen. Slade Gorton said yesterday.

Gorton, R-Wash., made the comment in a Senate floor speech that quoted statistics from three preliminary studies by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The preliminary data are to be included in the draft of a broader study that examines the possibility of breaching the four dams - Ice Harbor, Lower Monument, Little Goose and Lower Granite. The broader study is due for completion this fall.

The corps is considering the possibility of dam breachings to help boost the populations of threatened and endangered salmon.

The statistics quoted by Gorton attempt to assess the economic impact of breaching - removal of the earthen portions of the four dams so water can flow freely past them.

He said the breachings would cost $251 million for the region's power supply, $9 million a year from lost irrigated farmland and $40 million in additional transportation costs, among other costs.

"So what do we get by removing the four Snake River dams? Shattered lives, displaced families and communities . . . generations of family farmers penniless," Gorton said.

The speech was one of a series of recent public actions designed to boost public support for keeping dams, and to increase pressure on the corps not to recommend breaching.

Last week, the House Resources Committee passed a resolution by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, opposing dam removal.

More than a dozen salmon and steelhead stocks in the Columbia River-Snake River system have been listed as threatened or endangered in recent years. Dam removal has been touted by some as the sure cure for saving native fish populations because it allows fish to reach the spawning grounds.

John Hughes, Associated Press
Gorton Says Removal of Snake River Dams Would be Disaster
Seattle Times, July 28, 1999

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