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What is the Hanford Reach?
Currently, both the Hanford Reach and the Wahluke Slope are within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation which is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Department of Energy plans to release the Hanford Reach and the Wahluke Slope in the near future.
The Lower Columbia Basin chapter of the National Audubon Society (LCBAS) has been defending the Hanford Reach for over 30 years. For the past ten years, we have waged an intensive campaign to secure long term, formal protection for the Reach as a segment of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. Our chapter has developed biological resource goals, principles, and objectives for the Hanford Reach.
The Hanford Reach has been threatened with destruction for over 30 years. The Ben Franklin Dam proposal of the early 1960s would have drowned the Reach under the slack waters of yet another reservoir. In the 1980s, the Corps of Engineers proposed dredging a barge canal through the Reach. Both proposals would have eliminated salmon spawning. Wahluke 2000, a group of agribusiness supporters, has been advocating agricultural development of the federal lands bordering the northern and eastern shore of the Reach for several years. Congressman Richard Hastings has introduced legislation (H.R. 1811) to transfer those lands to the counties for agricultural development. His bill would also place the river corridor under the management of a local control dominated commision.
The fragile White Bluffs along the Reach are threatened by irrigation runoff, and are subject to massive slumping. Further agricultural development would almost certainly degrade the Reach's enviable water quality, and bury the salmon spawning beds in sediment. Two of the Reach's islands are also threatened with agricultural development. The Grant County Public Utility District nearly leased some of its Reach shoreline to a gold mining company in 1991.
We have managed to protect the Reach thus far by focusing public attention on the threats to it, but the threats are coming faster and are backed by powerful, well-financed political forces. Real, long-term protection can only be achieved by amending the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to include the Hanford Reach. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Hanford Reach Wild and Scenic River Act (S. 715) in December, 1995, in January, 1997 (S. 200), and again in March, 1999.
In April 1997 (H.R. 1477) and again in March, 1999, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Bremerton) introduced a companion bill (H.R. 1314) to Senator Murray's Bill (S. 715)
The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River is listed as NUMBER 1 of America's Most Endangered Rivers of 1998 by the American Rivers Organization. Read the full report here.