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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hanford Reach Hearing Deadline Friday

Time is short for people who want to tell senators their opinion of “wild and scenic” protection for Hanford Reach, one of the last free-flowing stretches of the Columbia River.

The hearing, hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on June 21, at the middle school in Mattawa, a small central Washington town near the river. The deadline for applying to speak at that hearing is Friday.

As with most Senate hearings, committee members will decide who will speak. Those selected will have the microphone for two minutes, and are asked to bring 10 written copies of their comments.

Hanford Reach, which stretches 50 miles north from Tri-Cities, was protected from development and damming because it is adjacent to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Biologists say it is an important spawning bed, producing 80 percent of the river’s fall Chinook salmon.

It also is home to nine species of plants and 13 animals classified as threatened or endangered by federal and state authorities.

The wild and scenic designation, which would limit uses of land next to the river, has been discussed for at least 20 years.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., have introduced companion bills calling for the protection. The Democratic governors of Washington, Oregon and Alaska recently announced their support of the bills.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings, R-Wash., helped kill a similar bill last year. Commissioners from three counties also oppose the designation, as do some farm groups and property owners.

To request a chance to speak at the hearing, call Murray’s Spokane office at (509) 624-9515 or Gorton’s Kennewick office at (509) 783-0649.

Anyone not selected, or who can’t attend the hearing, can submit written comments to: Jim O’Toole, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, 354 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of Hanford Reach area

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