Washington’s senior U.S. senator talked tariffs, dams, shoreline control and tennis shoes during a visit to the Tri-Cities on Thursday.
Sen. Patty Murray gave the keynote address at the Tri-Cities Development Council (TRIDEC) annual meeting, at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel.
Her wide-ranging speech touched on the passage last week of the $1.4 trillion bipartisan spending bill that included $203 million more for Hanford Site clean-up than proposed by the White House.
She talked about the important work of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, worker training, education, funding, infrastructure, immigration and veterans affairs, among other topics.
She also left time for questions, highlighting some of the topics on the minds of Tri-Citians.
Most centered on complex subjects such as the future of the four lower Snake River dams and U.S. trade policy.
Lower Snake River dams
Murray’s position on the four lower Snake River Dams was thrown into confusion earlier this year when she opposed a bipartisan House bill that would keep the status quo for the four dams.
That meant no breaching or no extra spilling of water until at least 2022.
Murray wanted an environmental study that covered all alternatives to support salmon recovery.
She was asked to clarify if she will protect the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams from advocates for removing them to improve sockeye habitat.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I did not call for, nor will I call for, the removal of the Snake River dams.”
She called the dams “critical infrastructure” of regional importance to navigation, transportation and power production.
Columbia Shoreline control
Murray said she continues to watch Mid-Columbia efforts to lobby Congress to return control of 34 miles of Columbia River shoreline to local hands.
Former U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, together with former Kennewick Mayor Brad Fisher and former TRIDEC executive Gary Petersen have led the widely supported movement to take back the shoreline.
The federal government acquired the land in the 1940s and 50s as part of McNary Dam’s construction.
It purchased much of the land but condemned other tracts.
Advocates say they hope U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, will introduce a bill to transfer the shoreline.
Fisher said he’s hopeful Murray will support a Senate version, based on comments she made in 2014 that favored the community-led initiative.
Hastings, Fisher and Petersen keep local elected officials updated on their efforts. Fisher said there is no opposition.
“We’re really encouraged by that,” he said.
Murray told the TRIDEC crowd she is looking for a plan that is widely supported by all stakeholders, including public, private, recreational and tribal.
Trade policy and Washington state
Murray said she was “deeply concerned” when the president announced steep tariffs on steel.
Retaliatory tariffs could be “devastating” to a trade-dependent state like Washington, adding that such retaliation was her fear.
She said she was relieved that the tariff has been narrowed, but called on trade-dependent states to do a better job letting people know the value of international trade to the domestic economy.
Murray said both parties have to work together to address the needs of workers who have lost their jobs, as well as businesses that need access to markets.
What about those shoes?
Murray concluded on a light note, fielding a question about the fate of the storied tennis shoes that propelled her into public office in the 1980s.
For those who weren’t familiar with her original Senate campaign, Murray recounted how she went to Olympia to protest budget cuts that affected her children’s Seattle-area preschool. A state lawmaker dismissed her as “just a mom in tennis shoes.”
Angered rather than defeated, she marshaled a crowd of 13,000 to swarm the Capitol.
The campaign worked. Funding was restored and the “mom in tennis shoes” won elected office, first on her local school board, then state senate and finally the U.S. Senate in 1992.
“I’ve been through many pairs of tennis shoes,” she told the Tri-City business crowd. As for the tennis shoes that inspired the insulting dismissal?
“I don’t know where my original tennis shoes are.”
Political memorabilia collectors can take heart: Murray has a large collection of tennis shoe-themed gifts, including many pairs of actual tennis shoes and at least one set of tennis shoe earrings.