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June 22, 2001

Hanford monument planning committee meets

RICHLAND (AP) -- An advisory board charged with guiding the management of the 193,000-acre federally protected Hanford Reach area has begun its monumental task.

"We can love this resource to death," Ed Rykiel, an associate professor at the Tri-Cities branch of Washington State University, said Wednesday. "That's one of the things we need to be concerned about."

Rykiel is an alternate to the 13-member board, formed after the Hanford Reach National Monument was designated last year.

The board brings together a variety of interests, including government agencies, Indian tribes, conservation groups, scientists and utilities.

The monument, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, includes the 560-square-mile Hanford nuclear reservation and a 51-mile stretch of the Columbia River known as the Hanford Reach.

Much of the area is relatively unspoiled by development because of limited access to the nuclear reservation, which was set up in 1943 as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to make plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The river reach includes some of the most productive salmon spawning grounds in the Northwest, and the surrounding shrub-steppe habitat includes a variety of rare plants and animals.

Robert Tomanawash, a Wanapum Band tribal elder from Priest Rapids, was born on the river. Now he's eager to support efforts to protect it.

"As I grew up, I saw a lot of bad things happen to the river, to the land and to my people," he said.

Karen Wieda, a science education specialist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory here, said when she moved to the high desert of south-central Washington from Seattle, she thought it was "the ugliest place" on Earth.

"I've learned to love this landscape, and I want to teach people about this place."

The panel is expected to spend the next two or three years working on the plans. The Fish and Wildlife Service will have the final say.

"We do make the ultimate decision," said Anne Badgley, Fish and Wildlife regional director in Portland, Ore.

There are national guidelines on how monuments should be managed, but if panel members are able to reach a consensus on what sort of things they want, "we would sure be listening to their voices," Badgley said.

Jim Watts of Richland, a district president for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, is representing the Tri-City Industrial Development Council on the committee.

Establishing a national monument at Hanford should enhance the ability of the region to lobby for cleanup funds for the U.S. Department of Energy site, he said

Earlier this month, state Attorney General Christine Gregoire and nine other attorneys general wrote to the Energy Department to complain that the national nuclear cleanup program was insufficiently funded.

Washington and other states have threatened to sue if the federal government does not meet its obligations.


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