Babbitt helps a river

  • Boating on the Klamath

    Tim Jewett
  Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has declared an 11-mile stretch of southern Oregon's Klamath River a National Scenic River. Babbitt's decision deals a death blow to the city of Klamath Falls' proposed Salt Caves hydroelectric project, reports The Oregonian. Oregon citizens voted six years ago to include the free-flowing portion of the river in the state's scenic waterway system, and more than two years ago, Democratic Gov. Barbara Roberts asked Babbitt for federal protection. But Klamath Falls fought the state for more than 10 years, seeking permission to build a $180-million project. Over the years, the city scaled it down, finally endorsing a no-dam alternative. But even without a dam, the Salt Caves project would sometimes have taken almost all water out of that stretch of the river, which now supports whitewater recreation and a rich array of wildlife. Babbitt's decision brought raves from environmentalists but angered city officials and Rep. Bob Smith, R, whose district includes the city. "It's no secret that this administration is doing the radical preservationists' bidding," Smith said. "No one who supports this action, including the governor, has ever pretended to give a damn about jobs in Klamath County and never will." Federal officials expect the city to challenge the decision in court.

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