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Gorton Again Vows to Kill
Any Dam-Breaching Plan

by William McCall, Associated Press
The Oregonian
- April 19, 2000

The Washingtonian praises Oregon's Gordon Smith,
who asks at a hearing about other ways to save salmon

CASCADE LOCKS -- Sen. Slade Gorton renewed his promise Tuesday to block any proposal to breach four lower Snake River dams, saying there is not enough scientific evidence to prove declining salmon runs would benefit.

"Removing dams simply in the belief that salmon might survive better lacks common sense and tangible science," the Washington Republican said. "As long as I'm a U.S. senator, no proposal to breach Snake River dams will pass in Congress."

Gorton was invited to speak at a field hearing on salmon called by Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, a fellow Republican, whom Gorton praised for his support for alternatives to dam breaching.

Gorton criticized Gov. John Kitzhaber, the first major elected official to publicly advocate tearing down the four dams in Eastern Washington.

Breaching advocates argue that the dams turn the Snake into a series of lakes that drown spawning habitat and make it tougher for young salmon to migrate to the ocean. Opponents counter that breaching would wipe out cheap barge service for wheat and woodchips and threaten jobs by reducing the supply of hydropower.

Smith was not as critical of breaching, but he did ask pointed questions about salmon policy of a panel of 10 experts from government, industry, labor, tribal, conservation and trade groups, who agreed that salmon are threatened but disagreed on how to restore them.

Testimony indicated predators, urban and rural development, overfishing and ocean conditions all have contributed to salmon declines, and Smith suggested that fishery managers pursue ways to overcome those factors before taking the costly and permanent step of breaching dams.

He noted that Will Stelle, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, acknowledged at a hearing last week in Washington, D.C., that there was no conclusive proof breaching dams would help salmon.

"We're looking for ways short of irreversible changes to save salmon," Smith said.

Smith expressed concern about state and federal agencies favoring wild fish over hatchery stocks for restoring dwindling salmon runs, in some cases clubbing excess hatchery fish so they won't spawn with wild fish.

William McCall, Associated Press
Gorton Again Vows to Kill Any Dam-Breaching Plan
The Oregonian April 19, 2000

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