Gorton to Clinton-Gore Administration:
by U.S. Senator Slade Gorton
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) thwarted another attempt by dam removal advocates today by passing Senate legislation that would prevent the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) from raising Northwest power rates to pay for dam removal.
"This legislation prevents dam removal advocates in the Clinton-Gore Administration from creating a slush fund for dam removal," said Gorton. "Why should the region's ratepayers be forced to pay for something they don't even want? Especially when dam removal is unlikely to happen."
"BPA will not be limited in its ability to pay for fish recovery costs, but they will not get one extra dime as a down payment for dam removal unless Congress and the people of the region authorize such action," said Gorton. "I will not stand by and allow BPA to send the bill for dam removal to people of eastern Washington and destroy their livelihoods in the process."
The Senate agreed to Gorton's amendment that requires the BPA Administrator, in establishing rates for the 2001-2006 rate case, to only recover costs for "protection, mitigation and enhancement of fish, whether under the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act or any other act", thereby preventing BPA from exceeding its forecasted rates to generate surplus funds that could be used for dam removal.
Last month, four federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Office of Management and Budget urged BPA to start billing Northwest ratepayers for dam removal, even though the region is united in its opposition to removal and a National Marine Fisheries Service study on how to improve salmon runs won't be completed until next year.
Gorton's measure was adopted into the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 97-2.
Gorton has been widely recognized for his efforts to preserve and protect the Columbia-Snake River hydrosystem. At an event in eastern Washington recently, he summed up his philosophy on this issue: "I believe we need to preserve and protect our hydroelectric system so that we retain the benefits of irrigation, navigation, transportation, recreation, safe drinking water, flood control, and environmentally-friendly, inexpensive, power production. Put simply, the Columbia-Snake river dams should stay put. This is a critical element in protecting the Norhtwest way of life."
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