Democrats want hearing into Cheney role in
6/27/2007, by MATTHEW DALY, The Oregonian
WASHINGTON (AP) — West Coast Democrats called for a hearing
Wednesday into the role Vice President Cheney may have played in
the 2002 die-off of about 70,000 salmon near the California-Oregon
An article in the Washington Post Wednesday said Cheney played a
crucial role in developing a 10-year water plan for the Klamath
River that courts later called arbitrary and in violation of the
Endangered Species Act. Democrats charged that Cheney's action
resulted in the largest adult salmon kill in the history of the
"The ramifications of that salmon kill are still being felt today
as returns to the Klamath River are so low that commercial, sport
and tribal fishing seasons have been curtailed for the past three
years," Democrats said in a letter calling for the hearing.
Commercial fishing in California and Oregon was cut by more than
90 percent last year — the largest commercial fishing closure in
the history of the country — resulting in more than $60 million in
damage to coastal economies, the letter said.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., whose district includes the area
where the fish died, said Democrats want to have a hearing in the
House Natural Resources Committee.
"We know that science was manipulated and the law was violated,"
Thompson said. "Did in fact the vice president of the United
States put pressure on mid-level bureaucrats to alter the science
and circumvent the law in order to gain political votes for his
re-election or the election of other people in Oregon?"
Thompson's office drafted the letter, which was signed by 36 House
Democrats in California and Oregon, including all four Democratic
House members in Oregon and all Democrats but House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi in California. Thompson said he did not ask Pelosi to sign
Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president's office, said
late Wednesday she had not seen the letter and could not comment.
The salmon die-off and water usage in the drought-plagued Klamath
Basin have long been a source of political controversy. In 2004,
the Interior Department's inspector general found no basis for a
claim by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry that White
House political advisers interfered in developing water policy in
The inspector general said President Bush's top political adviser,
Karl Rove, was not involved in a 2002 decision to divert water
from the Klamath River in Oregon to irrigate farms. While Rove
mentioned the Klamath in passing during a briefing with senior
Interior officials, "we found nothing to tie Karl Rove's comments
... to the Klamath decision-making process," Inspector General
Earl Devaney said.
Three months after Rove's meeting in early 2002, administration
officials increased the water supply to more than 200,000 acres of
farmland in California and Oregon — a decision bitterly opposed by
environmentalists and commercial fishermen.
In September 2002, tens of thousands of chinook salmon died in the
Klamath River in Northern California. The California Department of
Fish and Game laid much of the blame on low water flows controlled
by the federal government, saying it created conditions that
allowed a fatal gill-rot disease to spread through the fish.
A report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said low river
flows played a role, but said other factors, including a large
return of fish, also contributed to the fish kill, the worst in