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Commentaries and editorials

Bill to Remove Dams Introduced

by Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
The Seattle Times, July 20, 2001

SPOKANE A bill to allow the federal government to remove four Snake River dams if other efforts to restore salmon fail was introduced yesterday by U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, denounced the bill as a thinly veiled effort by environmental groups to destroy the dams.

"It is unfortunate that Eastern Washington is again hit with a broadside out of Seattle," Hastings said.

The bill came just two weeks after four members of the Seattle City Council visited Eastern Washington to make amends for a resolution last year calling for removal of the dams. Some of them said they had not thought the measure through.

"Following the Seattle City Council's recent river tour and apology, I was hopeful our state could move beyond this divisive battle," Hastings said.

McDermott's bill asks the General Accounting Office to study the economic and environmental effects of breaching the dams and the consequences of the extinction of salmon and steelhead species. A report is due by Dec. 31, 2003.

The bill would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to breach the dams if that is deemed necessary to restore Snake River salmon, meet Indian-treaty obligations or meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

"Since the four federal dams on the lower Snake River were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, salmon and steelhead populations have plummeted," McDermott said.

Save Our Wild Salmon, a coalition of environmental groups, celebrated the bill's introduction last night in Washington, D.C., at a Capitol reception that featured smoked salmon.

The four dams Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite were built starting in the 1960s and are between the Tri-Cities and Lewiston, Idaho. They provide electricity, irrigation water and navigation for barges. The 1,250 megawatts of power they produce are enough for a city the size of Seattle.

Environmentalists blame the dams for blocking the migration of salmon to the Pacific, leaving the native populations either extinct or listed as endangered.

Business groups and Republican lawmakers have been critical of proposals to breach the dams, and President Bush declared during last year's campaign that he opposed their removal.

McDermott said the intent of his bill is to nudge Bush to spend the $1.2 billion needed each year to implement the Salmon Recovery Plan worked out by the Clinton administration.

McDermott said he would be pleased if the plan was put into effect and salmon stocks recovered without breaching the dams. Environmental groups said the bill authorizes necessary planning in case studies call for removal of the dams.

McDermott's bill has 20 sponsors, including some Republicans. Hastings sent a letter to House representatives this week saying that salmon runs this year are the greatest since 1938, that fish-passage systems at the dams are effective and that natural predators take a huge toll on the migrating salmon.

Environmentalists also ignore "the fact that salmon are caught and served with a lemon dill sauce at your neighborhood Red Lobster," Hastings noted.

The bill also called for a scientific review of last year's decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to delay a final verdict on dam removal.


Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
Bill to Remove Dams Introduced
The Seattle Times, July 20, 2001

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