Four pieces of Hanford will likely spur the most contention as prospective landlords jocky for control.
The Hanford Reach encompasses the last 51
undammed miles of the Columbia River and is a significant spawning
area for endangered chinook salmon as well as a treasure for
wildlife and waterfowl. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington
and the U.S. Park Service want to make the Hanford Reach part of
the national Wild and Scenic River system. This move would also
give the agency control over a quarter-mile strip of land on both
sides of the Columbia. It is supported by The Nature Conservancy,
the National Audubon Society and a host of other
But the proposal needs the
support of Congress to become a reality. That seemed assured until
last November's elections changed the national political climate.
Murray's bill, for instance, faces opposition from Washington
Republicans Sen. Slade Gorton and Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings, who
represents the eastern part of the state.
northern portion of Hanford, outside the Columbia River corridor,
includes Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Preserve, currently
jointly controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
Department of Energy, and the Wahluke Slope Wildlife Refuge, which
is managed by both the DOE and the state of
A Park Service study recommends the
two become a national wildlife refuge, run by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. That's a proposal that commissioners from several
area counties threaten to sue over. They insist on private
development by someone who will pay property
But the most spirited battle may be over
the future of the Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve,
known as ALE in the local vernacular. Never touched by plutonium
production, the reserve has been used for scientific research since
1967. The Yakima Nation and Bureau of Land Management both have
advanced formal proposals for the land, and the Department of
Energy may produce its own plan for long-term control.