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Clinton opposes removing four dams on Snake River
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a blow to environmentalists, the Clinton administration said Wednesday it would not support removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest to assist the recovery of endangered salmon.
George Frampton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in testimony prepared for delivery on Capitol Hill that the administration "will not recommend an immediate petition to Congress to authorize breaching of the Snake River dams."
Many people in the Pacific Northwest have been torn between supporting attempts to recover salmon runs protected under the Endangered Species Act, and accepting the higher electricity rates and other problems that would come with bringing down the earthen dams in Washington state.
Frampton's testimony, prepared for a subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Nature Resources Committee, made clear the Clinton administration was of two minds on the subject.
The subcommittee did not hear Frampton's testimony, having canceled a hearing on the subject. The White House released copies of Frampton's remarks.
Dam breaching, he said, is one step among many that holds promise for recovering Snake River salmon runs.
"But it is also clear that breaching the Snake River dams may not be essential to recovering these runs, and probably would not be sufficient," he said.
Plus, "dam breaching will require congressional authorization, funding, detailed planning and execution -- over an uncertain period that is not likely to be less than a decade, and perhaps much longer," Frampton said.
The decision was a blow to environmental groups which have lobbied heavily for removing the dams to help the salmon.
The Snake River dams have emerged as an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican candidate George W. Bush says the dams should stay while his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, has not taken a stance on the issue.
"Al Gore should take a stand," Bush said in a statement issued by his campaign. "I say we can use technology to save the salmon, without leaving the door open to destroying these dams."
"Today's announcement is the latest attempt by Bill Clinton and Al Gore to make this issue go away until after the election. I have consistently said we should not destroy these dams. Al Gore wants the door left open to their destruction. America needs a strong leader who is willing to take stands on tough issues," Bush said.
Gore declined to take the bait, maintaining the matter still needs further study.
"As president, I will bring all the parties and stake holders together," Gore told reporters during a campaign visit to Missouri. "I am going to ... come up with a solution that respects the environment and does not cause an upheaval in the economy."
Asked if he supported the administration's decision, Gore said, "I'm going to review it carefully."
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Wednesday, July 19, 2000
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