In a rousing speech before the Oregon Chapter
of the American Fisheries Society in February, Oregon Gov. John
Kitzhaber became the first major political figure in the Pacific
Northwest to back the breaching of four federal dams to recover
dwindling salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River basin
(HCN, 12/20/99: Unleashing the Snake).
called breaching the four dams on the Snake River in eastern
Washington a "responsible and cost-effective option."
"Some will say that we have not done enough
science," he said. "I say that we can always play that card as an
excuse for inaction and as a justification for avoiding tough
choices. But exactly what additional scientific experiment is
necessary to demonstrate that it is easier for salmon to migrate in
a free-flowing river than to negotiate a several-hundred-foot-high
Kitzhaber's speech drew loud
applause from fish advocates.
needed a leader on this issue," Liz Hamilton, spokeswoman for the
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association told the Oregonian.
"Apparently, it's going to get one."
governors in the region criticized Kitzhaber, saying he has hurt
the chances of a unified approach.
unfortunate that Gov. Kitzhaber felt at this time he had to come
forward and say that breaching is his option," said Mark Snyder, an
aide to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. "Gov. Kempthorne still wants to
step forward and offer a regional plan that does not involve
Kitzhaber said he is open to a
no-breach plan, but he warned that it would require aggressive and
costly actions, including habitat restoration on private lands,
radical limits on salmon harvest, and the acquisition of water
rights to increase flows for migrating fish.
have to stop deluding ourselves ... that our choices will be easier
and cheaper if we just leave the dams alone."