R.E.A.L. and history of planned removal of Elwha Dams
Editorial/Opinion by Marv Chastain
In the early 1990s, five guys got together and started a campaign to get public awareness of the impending Elwha disaster. We called it Rescue Elwha Area Lakes, (REAL).
We got about 300 people to sign statements that they opposed the project. We put them on a mailing list and sent out newsletters to them. We picked the Trumpeter Swans as our “mascot”, so to speak. Those birds come to Lake Aldwell in the winter, and are truly magnificent to see and hear. We made a couple of videos about them - but including other wildlife that would lose habitat and distributed over 600 of those videos.
One day, Jim Hargrove called me and asked for three more videos which I promptly sent him. When Al Gore came to Tacoma, Hargrove, as an elected Democrat, was on the speaker’s platform. He gave a video to each Patty, Gore and the governor.
We need politicians we can trust
Senator Slade Gorton made a public statement that the community should create a plan to save both the dams and the salmon. We took him seriously. We raised money by public contribution and hired Robert Crittenden to just read through the mass of government studies and come up with a plan to save the dams and the salmon, as Gorton had requested. Robert and I took the plan over to Bellevue to Gorton’s chief representative in the State and spent an hour with her explaining the issue. If Gorton ever saw it, he never gave us any clue he had read it, or that he knew we existed. We didn’t accompany it with $. Gorton came to town several times, but never met with or acknowledged REAL. He always met with Orville Campbell who was the representative of the dam owners. In the end, he wound up praising to the skies a group of locals who came up with the brilliant idea to tear down one dam, then use the profits from power production at the other one for a period of years to pay for tearing it down. That committee is another story.
They got each member to sign at the beginning that they would keep meeting until they had consensus - everyone agreeing to their final plan. They got some innocent conservatives in the group, but loaded it with radicals and businessmen who hoped to make money off the project. They kept on meeting until the conservatives finally gave up and signed on to a ridiculous, unworkable plan. Moral of that story is be careful what you agree to and who you agree with.
In about 1997, it appeared the Republican-controlled Congress would not appropriate the necessary funds to tear down the dams. Buck Adamire and I met in Hargrove’s office with Hargrove, Kessler and Jim Buck and drafted a bill that would simply have had the WSF&WS plant egg boxes in the middle river area, with the idea that when those fish returned in three - four years we would have a fish ladder or a trap and haul operation in place. ( We went up to Baker River where they have a very effective trap and haul operation which has rescued a salmon run that was almost done.)
Baker River project?
In spite of Dam Busters comments, it works)
Buck was then chairman of the Natural Resources committee (in the House) so it was decided he would carry the ball on getting the bill thru. When they had a hearing, he got up and testified to the committee for the bill. We never heard another word from him about it until the day after the last day for bills to go out of committee. That day we found out the bill had been rewritten to eliminate the Elwha from it. So Buck and Gorton both sold us out.
One of our big supporters was the Building Industry Association of Washington. (Also big financial supporters of Jim Buck). They met with Buck and gave him hell for his deceitful flip - - But, he gave them something that calmed them down. I could never find out what that something was. The BIA hired Jim Johnson (now state SCt justice Johnson) to find the legal problems with the Elwha act EIS. He found plenty - about ten pages worth. But that came to nothing because we didn’t have money to sue.
The News media
The local newspaper at first printed an article I wrote on the subject. But Frank Duchescci was then the publisher and he subsequently made sure nothing could be printed that was in any way negative. Several times they ran telephone polls to find out how supportive the public was. All of those got at least a 90% disapproval. While Frank was in the hospital, the news editor came up with the idea (prompted, I think by one of his reporters, Chris Camera) of submitting 14 questions about dam removal to the park service and to REAL, then printing the answers side by side. ( I think he was later fired, at least partly due to this) This is quite lengthy, but it’s on my website if you want to see it. It took the NPS about a month to come up with their answers. (Http://www.marvchastain.com/14 questions)
I received a phone call one day from a woman who was a reporter for the LA Times Washington, D.C. office. She was in PA and wanted to talk to me. I picked her up at her motel and took her to the Dry Creek Grange where we were exhibiting our videos. She worked the crowd talking to people and making notes. When the paper finally printed her story, there was no mention of this community or that there was any opposition to Dam Removal. It was just a puff piece on Bruce Babbit. I don’t know because she would not answer my phone calls, but I suspect she wrote the story but her editor cut that part out and she was too embarrassed to tell me.
I was interviewed by all three Seattle TV stations and they did show quick snippets of the interviews. In that, I got to know Chris Legeros of KIRO. One day, Chris called me and said he was on his way with a camera man to photograph the Trumpeters. And we agreed on a place to meet. About an hour later, he called back to say that somebody at KIRO had called the Sierra Club to see if they should do that story and SC had told them no no, don’t - - So they called him back. The woman producer who did the infamous national guard scam to defame G. Bush was then working for KIRO. Was she the one who called? I don’t know.
Buck Adamire and I visited the tribe and pointed out to them the scientific studies that were included in the EIS (as opposed to the bureaucrats glowing summary).
And the risks they showed to the tribal property. There were two women at the meeting that gave us hell, but the rest just listened quietly, with no response.
The property Rights fact here is that those dams were worth much more than the $27million the government paid for them. But dam owners accepted the deal under the threat they would have to pay for having them removed.
The county commissioners, two of which were Republicans at the time, held a public hearing on the issue and promised to hold a couple more. I and some others got up and talked to the hearing as did Brian Winter for the Dambusters. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Clinton White House sent one of their employees to sit in on that hearing. She never talked to me. But, suddenly, the commissioners cancelled any further such meetings.
What Did I learn?
In the end, the deal was cut in Washington, DC with both Republicans and Democrats involved and our efforts all came to nothing. What I learned from it was that electing honest conservatives both in Washington, DC and in Washington State is critically important and if we don’t win in this November, a lot more than property rights are at stake. The America we know may be finished. If we do get good conservatives to replace Norm Dicks and Patty Murray, the dams just could be saved by blocking the funding of the destruction.
We need to find candidates who are not afraid of the environmentalists. They have lots of money and lots of political clout. They are busy working to destroy this country and particularly every part (such as the Olympic Peninsula) that has a lot of natural beauty and is relatively unspoiled. I attempted to talk to Doug Cloud several years ago about the Elwha, since it is Norm Dick’s baby. Cloud turned me off. I think we can find a better replacement for Norm. The only time Norm ever lost in one of the counties in his district was about 96 when a political unknown beat him in C
The environmentalists work in trying to destroy the Elwha shows they are not above destruction of valuable wildlife habitat and cheap renewable power when it fits their purpose. Their purposes go way beyond the environment.
Something we didn’t have use of in the 90s, was the internet. Perhaps if we had had this mode of cheap instant communication, the picture would have been different. We need to be using this valuable tool to spread our story today.
A video is available about the dams - if you'd like a copy, contact Marv Chastain.
Questions or comments? Email Marv Chastain at email@example.com