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Friday, November 14, 2008

Dams to Be Removed To Help Oregon Salmon

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- An agreement signed Thursday lays the groundwork for removing four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River to help one of the West Coast's most beleaguered salmon runs and end a long-standing environmental dispute.

Removal of the PacifiCorp dams is expected to begin by 2020. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said in a conference call that President Bush had told officials to "find a collaborative solution" that doesn't pit one interest group against another.

The Bush administration had backed farmers in 2001 after the Endangered Species Act forced the shut-off of irrigation water to thousands of acres of farms to leave enough for threatened salmon.

When the administration restored irrigation in 2002 over the objections of tribes and conservation groups, low water conditions in the Klamath River led to the deaths of 70,000 adult salmon returning to spawn.

"We were motivated to find a solution because we've seen how bad it can be," Kempthorne said. "Nobody wanted to say, 'It's beyond our abilities to solve this.' "

The nonbinding agreement signed by Kempthorne, PacifiCorp and the governors of Oregon and California calls for a final agreement by June 30, 2009, and gives the federal government until 2012 to figure out whether removing the dams is feasible. It sets 2020 as the deadline for starting to remove the dams but does not include a deadline for finishing the job.

Storage Partly Blamed For Bridge Collapse

Undersized steel plates and the stress of 287 tons of stockpiled construction material were singled out as reasons for last year's collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured 145.

Federal safety investigators said the collapse on Aug. 1, 2007, was unavoidable once gusset plates in the bridge's center span failed, dragging other sections and rush-hour commuters into the Mississippi River. The plates helped connect the bridge's steel beams.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board, during a two-day hearing, criticized Minnesota transportation officials for allowing storage of construction material on the Interstate 35W bridge.

Calif. Holds Big Quake Drill

LOS ANGELES -- Southern Californians dropped to the ground, covered their heads and held on to the furniture for a mock "Big One" -- an earthquake drill billed as the largest in U.S. history and aimed at testing officials and ordinary residents alike, with some students who donning fake blood to play victims. At 10 a.m., television news programs announced there was an earthquake disaster drill, then cut to cameras in school classrooms showing children ducking under their desks and holding on to them.

New Indictment of Rep. Renzi

A federal grand jury returned an expanded indictment against Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), accusing him of racketeering in an alleged scheme to profit from a land deal. In the new 44-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, Renzi is accused of funneling insurance premiums people paid to a company he helped run to his campaign coffers and his own accounts.

Seller of Shuttle Part Charged

The owner of a machine shop was charged with selling NASA a damaged space shuttle part that authorities said could have destroyed the spacecraft and its crew during a March mission. Richard J. Harmon, 60, was indicted by a Houston grand jury and charged with fraud involving space-vehicle parts and making a false statement to NASA investigators, acting U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson said. If convicted, Harmon faces 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

-- From News Services

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