Waffling No Help to Snake Dam Choicesby Editorial Board
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 26, 2000
It's perfectly predictable that the Clinton administration is unwilling to decide in a presidential election year whether four fish-killing Snake River dams should be removed.
Predictable, but irresponsible.
Such abdication of a difficult duty is just what disgruntled citizens have come to expect from those who are masquerading as political leaders.
"We simply don't have enough science" to decide what to do about the dams, Brian Gorman told the Post-Intelligencer last week. Gorman is National Marine Fisheries Service spokesman.
Wrong. We have all the science we need to make that decision -- and all the definitive science we're ever going to get.
What we don't have is people in authority with the will to cut to the chase and make an up-or-down decision -- and accept responsibility for the consequences of that decision.
Instead, we have people in authority with bottomless appetites for endless taxpayer-funded studies that provide nothing more than political cover for stalling.
A regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administrator says that, biologically, the value of removing the dams is a "no brainer."
But NMFS apparently disagrees. If there's really no worthwhile fish recovery to be gained by removing the dams, now is the time for those charged with making that call to say so.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was about to say just that in a cost-benefit report last December when orders from senior Defense Department officials inexplicably erased the recommendation that the dams remain standing.
But Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has told dam-breaching foe Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington that a decision on dismantling the dams "will not -- and should not -- be made on my watch."
"Not on my watch" is the de facto mantra of this administration.
Faced with the administration's waffling, NMFS, the lead agency for salmon recovery, has postponed a decision this year. Under the latest scenario, that agency was to make its recommendations this June.
The deadlines for deciding what must be done to recover the Columbia/Snake river runs repeatedly have been extended on various flimsy pretexts. Meanwhile, the hapless fish are left to sink or swim through billion-dollar gantlets of half-measures.
Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, self-proclaimed champion of the environment, has been resoundingly mum on whether the dams should come down.
What do you have to say on this subject, Mr. Gore?
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