U.S. Softens Plan to Aid Salmon
by Tribune News Service
WASHINGTON -- In a decision highly sensitive in the Pacific Northwest, the Clinton administration will postpone by at least five years a plan that could have led to the breaching of four major Snake River dams for the benefit of wild salmon.
Instead, the administration will propose a menu of smaller steps intended to protect the salmon and other fish that comprise a dozen endangered species, partly by placing logs along riverbeds to provide the fish with an illusion of home.
The plan, which is to be unveiled formally next week, was outlined Wednesday by senior administration officials. It was portrayed as an alternative to more severe measures that face strong opposition by elected officials in the Northwest. But the new proposal also will reverberate across the politically important region.
The dams, in Washington state, are part of a cluster on the Snake and Columbia Rivers that interrupt the fishes' migratory flow. But they also generate enormous quantities of electricity, and in the debate over their fate, the potential cost to consumers of electricity in the Pacific Northwest has weighed heavily.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, already has said he opposes any breaching of the dams. By contrast, Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic nominee, has refused to comment directly about the issue despite repeated questions about it during campaign stops in the region.
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