4 Northwest Governors United
by John Hughes, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Four Pacific Northwest governors yesterday agreed to continue joint salmon recovery efforts, despite Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's controversial support for breaching four Snake River dams.
"The speech I gave last week didn't blow up the cohesiveness of the governors," Kitzhaber, a Democrat, said after a closed meeting on salmon with the governors of Washington state, Idaho and Montana.
Kitzhaber, in a speech Feb. 18, became the first major elected official in the Pacific Northwest to endorse removal of the earthen portions of the four dams to help bring back salmon populations listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Aides to Govs. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho, and Marc Racicot, R-Montana, said a few days after the speech that the governors were disappointed Kitzhaber chose to highlight disagreement within the region rather than work toward a unified effort to recover Columbia Basin salmon.
Gov. Gay Locke last week said "I strongly disagree with Governor Kitzhaber."
But at their first face-to-face meeting with Kitzhaber since the speech, the governors didn't try to dissuade the Oregonian or voice displeasure with his position. "He's got a different perspective," Racicot noted.
"And I didn't say, 'Governors, you change your minds or position,'" Kitzhaber said. "That's not how we've operated."
The governors held the salmon meeting at Kitzhaber's request as part of the National Governors' Association conference in the nation's capital.
Kempthorne said the governors will be coming out with an "All-H" paper in about 30 days addressing the role of hatcheries, the hydropower system, habitat and harvest in the region in order to help the fish.
"We think there's an opportunity for the four states to work together to come forward with a well thought out plan," Kempthorne said.
Built about 30 years ago, the four Snake dams -- Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Lower Granite and Little Goose -- produce 5 percent of the hydroelectric power sold by the Bonneville Power Administration and make it possible for barges to run between the Tri-Cities in Washington to Lewiston, Idaho, 300 miles inland from the Pacific.
Kitzhaber said that despite his earlier speech, he made it clear to the governors he could support a non-breaching strategy, as long as other major steps were taken to solve salmon problems.
He said the governors agreed to focus on things they could agree upon, including changes to the hydropower system that do not include breaching.
"We're not going to go anywhere, probably, as a region unless we have all four governors together, and they're not there at this point," Kitzhaber said. "But we've had an unprecedented series of productive meetings. We're still on a very good basis. We still want to get to the same place."
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