Blumenauer Calls Dam Removal 'Legitimate Alternative' for FishBy Jim Barnett, The Oregonian - April 13, 1999
WASHINGTON -- Dam removal might be the third rail of Northwest politics, but that didn't stop Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., from stepping as close as possible Monday without getting zapped.
Blumenauer was the surprise guest at a news conference held by environmental groups that want to remove dams to save endangered fish runs. He showed up to talk about urban sprawl and its effect on rivers, but he was pressed for his position on a proposal to breach four lower Snake River dams.
"It is a legitimate alternative, and it should not be taken off the table," said Blumenauer, who represents the mostly urban 3rd District in east Portland and Multnomah County.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to decide this year whether breaching the four federal dams in Washington state is the best way to save salmon and steelhead. The dams' earthen portions would be removed to allow the river to flow free.
On Monday, the conservation group American Rivers named the Snake the most endangered river in the United States. Each year, the group lists the 10 rivers it considers most in need of protection and restoration.
As the decision about breaching the four dams approaches, pressure grows on Northwest politicians, especially Democrats. Republicans such as Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., oppose dam removal, but Democrats are having a tougher time weighing the economic and environmental interests they represent.
Blumenauer said Monday that the notion of removing dams should be weighed carefully on its merits. With the fisheries service still undecided, it's too early to rule that solution in or out, he said.
But all around Blumenauer were environmentalists and taxpayer advocates who had made up their minds. Removing dams not only would save fish, they said, it also would save money by ending taxpayer subsidies to operate dams and limiting liability to tribes, which have treaty rights to salmon.
"This is now becoming a national political issue," said Ralph DeGennaro, executive director of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Removing these dams may never be the most popular thing in Washington state. But it is a step that the nation will eventually demand."
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