Bush Renews Pledge
by Linda Ashton
Washington State, North Dakota and Virginia Vote Today
PASCO, Wash. -- Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush reiterated on Monday his promise that the four dams on the lower Snake River will not be breached in an effort to save wild salmon runs from extinction if he is elected.
"I grew up in West Texas," Bush said. "I understand water. I understand the importance of water. I know that water is the lifeblood of agriculture.
"We are not going to breach the dams, he told a cheering crowd of about 500 people at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, which sits at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Washington, Virginia and North Dakota are holding state primaries and caucuses today.
Bush, the boernor of Texas, and his main rival for the GOP nomination, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have been running dueling campaign ads in eastern Washington on the issue of dam breaching.. While Bush says he is opposed to breaching-- tearing out the earthen portion of the four hydroelectric dams to ease fish passage -- McCain's ad says he is not a proponent of breaching and will consider all aspects of the issue.
Monday, Bush already was looking ahead to presidential race this fall against the Democratic front-runner. "I look foward to debating a man like Al Gore, who cannot figure out how to take a position on this important issue," Bush said.
Gore, who is vying with former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley for the Democratic nomination, has not said whether he favors breaching the dams, preferring to wait until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service finish studies of the issue. Gore has suggested that, if elected president, he will propose a salmon summit. Bradley has criticized Gore for not being more aggressive on salmon, but he has not endorsed dam breaching, either.
Breaching the dams, ultimately a congressional decision, would dry up cargo-ship traffic to Lewiston and port development along a largely rural, 140-mile stretch of the Snake River between Pasco and Lewiston.
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