The Wayward West

  The Clinton administration has weighed in on the politically charged dam-breaching debate in the Northwest - and some say it's bad news for endangered salmon (HCN, 12/20/99: Unleashing the Snake). On July 19, George Frampton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, announced Clinton will delay demolishing the four Snake River dams for five to 10 years. Instead, the administration will restrict harvests, restore riparian areas and increase water flows from the existing dams. "The alarm on the extinction clock has gone off, and we do not have five or 10 years of precious time to waste," Samuel Penney of the Nez Perce tribe told the Oregonian.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a 60-foot dam with a $6.8 million price tag to protect homes and nuclear lab facilities in Los Alamos, N.M., from potential floods (HCN, 7/3/00: Los Alamos races against time). The Corps has been granted a permit without doing an environmental analysis because officials say this is an emergency situation. Critics say the dam is unnecessary. "This is a throwback to the 1950s: Build a dam first, ask questions later," Sam Hitt, director of Forest Guardians, told the Albuquerque Journal North.

The Environmental Protection Agency can't start cleanup of asbestos contamination at a vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont. The mining company has revoked its access (HCN, 3/13/00: Libby's dark secret). W.R. Grace & Co. repurchased the mine it sold in 1990, and the company says that until it has liability insurance and the EPA's cleanup plan, the agency can't enter the property. Bonnie Gestring of the Montana Environmental Information Center calls it "an effort to stonewall the EPA."

Californians are lining up to drive their old beaters to the dump. Under pressure to meet air-quality standards, the state will pay $1,000 for old "pollution-spewing" cars. Since the program kicked off on July 7, between 550 and 1,000 Californians a day have called for applications. The state hopes to take 50,000 clunkers off the road within the next four years.

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