The Northwest needs a comprehensive plan to deal with thorny issues surrounding dams, salmon, farms and the Columbia River system, Sen. Slade Gorton said Wednesday.
“We’ve been attacking them piecemeal,” the state’s senior senator said. “That isn’t working.”
The nation is spending millions on salmon restoration with poor results, he said. The price of power is increasing to pay for the restoration. Barge traffic is being disrupted by spills.
The four Northwest states - Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana - need a single entity with the power to choose among competing interests, Gorton said. Congress would need to rewrite several decades of laws that now have conflicting rules.
He hopes the next Congress will tackle that as the region’s top priority. But Gorton, who has angered environmentalists with past legislative proposals, won’t try to write the bill himself.
“It needs to be bipartisan,” he said, adding he hopes to enlist Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
The right proposal could have support from the White House even if Bill Clinton is re-elected, Gorton said. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt shares his view that the interrelated problems need a comprehensive plan.
“Certainly, he would propose a different solution,” Republican Gorton said.
Back in Spokane for the first time since Congress adjourned, Gorton labeled the past session “a very good one,” but not, as some Republicans claim, the best in history.
“It’s not appropriate to say ‘Wow! It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”’
It passed a new farm bill and welfare reform and reduced the budget deficit, he said. It didn’t do enough to simplify federal regulations, and the problems with Medicare remain for the next Congress.