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Commentaries and editorials

Columbia-Snake River Hydro System Update

from U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA)
Letter to Constituents, June 22, 1999

Dear friend:

You have probably heard of my recent efforts to preserve and protect the Columbia-Snake River Hydro System. I thought you would appreciate an explanation of my plan to do this.

Last year, we reached an impasse with the Clinton/Gore Administration over Northwest dams.

My position - that no dams will be removed or breached unless and until the region supports it and Congress authorizes it - remains unchanged. Unfortunately for the region, the Clinton/Gore Administration's position is also unchanged: they will not take dam removal "off-the-table."

So this year, I am changing my approach, realizing that we are at a stalemate as long as we have a Clinton/Gore Administration.

The bottom line is money. If the Clinton/Gore Administration wants to remove dams, they will need money to do so. I will use my position as Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to make sure those funds are unavailable.

Here is exactly how I am using the appropriations process to preserve "the great waterway."

Just days ago, the Senate passed [by a vote of 97-2] the following three measures I authored:
  1. I offered legislation to prevent BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) from creating a dam removal slush fund. Northwest ratepayers should not be asked to pay higher utility bills to support the Clinton/Gore Administration's efforts to tear down dams.
  2. I secured $70 million in Columbia River fish mitigation funds with the caveat that not one dollar of that money is spent for drawdown studies at John Day or McNary dams. Of course, everything we can do to make the dams more "fish-friendly" will solidify our position that the dams should remain in place.
  3. Lastly, I included a measure to extend the life and expand the scope of the Independent Scientific Review Panel, the objective scientific panel that acts as a counterbalance to the extreme environmentalists' organizations.

Since last year, we have observed several positive developments in the area of preserving and protecting the Columbia Snake River Hydro System. One, local community support for the dams is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the SAVE OUR DAMS rally in the Tri-Cities. Two, Governor Locke and Senator Murray announced they were opposed to removing some dams. And, three, recently, an environmental group, the World Wildlife Fund released a study linking global warming to salmon declines, thus blowing holes in the argument that dam removal is the answer to restoring salmon runs.

While these are small steps towards victory, we still have work to do to ensure that the dams will remain a part of our Northwest economy.

Rest assured, while there will be heated debate over the Columbia-Snake River System until the next Presidential election, dams won't come down on my watch. I remain adamantly opposed to dam removal and will continue working through more effective means, to protect the livelihood of those in eastern Washington.

United States Senator

"I will work hard to preserve and protect our hydroelectric system so that we retain the benefits of irrigation, navigation, transportation, recreation, flood control and environmentally-friendly, inexpensive power production. Put simply . . . the Columbia-Snake River dams should stay put. This is a critical element in protecting the Northwest way of life." - Slade Gorton

Slade Gorton - United States Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA)
Columbia-Snake River Hydro System Update
Letter to Constituents - June 22, 1999

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