Gore: Dam Problem Needs Closer Eyeby Laurie Kellman, Associated Press
Excite News, May 12, 2000
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Prodded by both local Democrats and his presidential rival, Vice President Al Gore dipped a toe into the debate here over salmon preservation Friday. He said he wants scientists and the businessmen who would be affected by breaching Snake River dams to study the matter.
"I feel it is irresponsible to make a decision or draw a conclusion without consulting all of the parties involved and without utilizing hard science," Gore told about 200 people Friday at Portland Community College.
"I refuse to prejudge or play politics with this issue," he said. "We can develop a plan that can both protect the rivers and restore salmon runs. Extinction here is not an option."
The vice president had been urged by Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber and Sen. Ron Wyden to speak up on the issue. And Republican rival George W. Bush said Thursday in an interview with KGW-TV in Portland, "My opponent ought to take a position on this important issue, and the fact that he will not may indicate what kind of president he will be."
Bush has pledged to block any attempt to breach the dams.
Dan Bartlett, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, criticized the vice president for calling for yet another study when the Armys Corps of Engineers has been studying the matter in great detail since 1995.
"Once again Al Gore has failed to lead on an issue important to the voters of Oregon," Bartlett said. "Governor Bush has made it very clear of his oppositon to breaching the dams. And Al Gore again refuses to state his position clearly. ... The issue has been studied."
The Army Corps of Engineers is set to issue its opinion in the fall, and is expected to suggest that the dams should stand at least another five or 10 years while other measures are taken to save the salmon.
Other Republicans, such as Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington, had ridiculed Gore for saying South Carolina should take down the Confederate flag over its Statehouse while calling the salmon matter one that the state should decide.
The debate centers on whether to breach four dams across the Snake River to help save the region's famous but endangered salmon. Industry and labor officials say that would threaten businesses and jobs.
Gore's appearance at the community college, a few days before Oregon's May 16 presidential primary, focused on possible Social Security changes and the vice president's disagreements with Bush on the subject.
Kitzhaber and Wyden also had urged Gore to speak up on a Senate bill that critics say would block Oregon's assisted suicide law. Gore did not address that issue because he was not asked about it at the appearance, Wyden said.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., would allow the government to ask physicians why they are prescribing lethal doses of pain medication to terminally ill patients.
Wyden said he and Gore both oppose assisted suicide but believe the legislation could have a "chilling effect" on pain management for the afflicted.
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