Bush: salmon and dams can coexist
Bush told about 500 guests at the Ice Harbor Dam that the people who live closest to the land make the best stewards.
"We understand in this administration that we want local folks to revitalize the salmon runs. The good news is that salmon runs are up," the president said, drawing applause.
Bush also noted that the nation has a power shortage and that hydroelectric dams, which environmentalists contend are killing the fish, should not be removed.
"We don't need to be breaching no dams that are producing electricity," Bush said. "We've got to make sure we increase the supply and maintain the supply."
Introducing the president as a "compassionate conservationist," Interior Secretary Gail Norton said Bush's budget request for next year includes a $165 million boost in spending for salmon recovery – a 30 percent increase.
Only 7,990 chinook salmon passed through Ice Harbor Dam in 1995. By last year, the number had climbed to 127,062.
Critics contend the vast majority of returning fish are genetically inferior hatchery salmon. They also contend favorable ocean conditions, which are cyclical, are the main reason for the increase.
His only public appearance was planned for the dam in the Tri-Cities area, where residents voted for him by a 2-1 margin. The Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick have also enjoyed an economic boom in recent years because of federal spending to clean up radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Much of the rest of Washington has been mired in an economic slump and the unemployment rate of more than 7 percent is one of the highest in the nation.
Environmentalists want to remove Ice Harbor and three other dams on the Snake to help migrating salmon.
Conservation groups mounted a furious campaign this week to paint Bush as disastrous to the environment. But supporters of the president say his policies have helped increase the number of salmon returning to spawning grounds.
Later in the morning, Bush is scheduled to fly to Seattle’s Boeing Field to attend a $2,000 per person fundraising luncheon at the Hunts Point home of cellular billionaire Craig McCaw in Redmond, east of Seattle.
Heavy security will be in place. But Seattle police would not discuss security measures in place for the president's visit.
President Bush saw a small group of protesters near the Ice Harbor Dam. About 60 Democrats, some wearing Howard Dean buttons, and others carried signs that said "Bush Lied." They said Bush waved at them as his motorcade drove by.
Meanwhile, in Bellevue, east of Seattle, union members started gathering in for an anti-Bush demonstration. They hope to be seen by the president Friday afternoon as he travels to a fund-raiser at the Hunts Point home of Craig McCaw.
About 30 anti-Bush demonstrators gathered shortly before 11 a.m. at an intersection near the Hunts Point home. The crowd (at 84th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 24th) was peaceful. They were carrying signs that said: "Bush Lied, People Died" and "No Iraq War."
Traffic will be disrupted in certain areas around Seattle as the Bush motorcade drives through.
Bush leaves Seattle Friday afternoon.
Bush spent much of Thursday fundraising in Portland and touring central Oregon.
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