(Senate - May 11, 2017)

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[Page S2914]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


 Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today I wish to recognize the 50th 
anniversary of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council. Without the 
council and its courageous work, there might be multiple dams 
despoiling one of the deepest gorges in North America rather than the 
wondrous Snake Wild and Scenic River flowing through the Hells Canyon 
National Recreation Area and Hells Canyon Wilderness.
  The story of the creation of the council begins in 1967 as a conflict 
simmered for a long time over damming Hells Canyon, an 85-mile gorge on 
the Oregon-Idaho border. That fight appeared to solely turn on the 
question of who would get to build the dam in Hells Canyon, not whether 
to build the dam on what is often called the Grand Canyon of the Snake 
River. Washington Public Power Supply System, WPPSS, delivered public 
power and Idaho Power Company was a private power supplier. In 1964, 
the Federal Power Commission ruled in favor of the private power, WPPSS 
appealed, and their dispute went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  On June 5, 1967, Justice William O. Douglas read the Court's majority 
opinion from the bench. The Supreme Court ruled neither for public 
power nor for private power. Instead, it remanded the entire case back 
to the Federal Power Commission with instructions to consider whether 
the best dam in Hells Canyon might be no dam at all. The Supreme Court 
ruled that the case wasn't about public versus private power. Instead, 
Justice Douglas said: ``Nor is the test solely whether the region will 
be able to use the additional power. The test is whether the project 
will be in the public interest. And that determination can be made only 
after an exploration of all issues relevant to the `public interest,' 
including future power demand and supply, alternate sources of power, 
the public interest in preserving reaches of wild rivers and wilderness 
areas, the preservation of anadromous fish for commercial and 
recreational purposes, and the protection of wildlife.''
  Within 2 months, the debate over the best use of Hells Canyon shifted 
from what entity would dam it, to the core question of whether to dam 
it. Six members of the Idaho Alpine Club met in a Boise living room and 
formed the Hells Canyon Preservation Council. Joining that group was a 
young Seattle lawyer and Sierra Club attorney named Brock Evans.
  Brock soon fell in love with Hells Canyon and northeastern Oregon and 
vowed that the Snake River would not be dammed. The Hells Canyon 
Preservation Council soon grew to have more than 2,000 members in all 
50 States. Its chapters included one in the little town of Enterprise 
in Wallowa County, home to half of Hells Canyon. The national attention 
attracted media personality Arthur Godfrey and folk singer Pete Seeger, 
along with national environmental groups who wanted to save the great 
  Their efforts also attracted the attention of Oregon Senator Bob 
Packwood. From his first day in office, Senator Packwood championed the 
preservation of Hells Canyon.
  It took 8 years of hard work by Brock, assisted by Doug Scott, a 
native Oregonian who replaced Brock as the Sierra Club's Northwest 
Representative--and so many others inside and outside of Congress; yet 
that sweat equity paid off in 1975 when Congress passed the Hells 
Canyon National Recreation Area Act.
  I am proud to say that Brock and his wife, Linda, have recently 
returned to Oregon, having moved to La Grande, near his beloved Hells 
  Oregonians and all Americans are indebted to the Hells Canyon 
Preservation Council and its allies, including Senator Packwood and 
many other fine Oregonians, for their tireless advocacy for preserving 
wild nature for the benefit of all of us today as well as future 
  Thanks to their work, we Oregonians today consider the Hells Canyon 
National Recreation Area, the Hells Canyon Wilderness, and the Snake 
Wild and Scenic River to be an irreplaceable part of our priceless 
natural legacy, and we would no more think of damming Hells Canyon than 
of draining Crater Lake.