Letters From the West

Army Corps extends comments on Snake River dredging proposal

Lower Granite Dam in the Snake River in Washington.

Lower Granite Dam in the Snake River in Washington.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is extending the public comment period for its proposed dredging and in-water disposal plan below Lewiston.

It specifically wants comments on its measures to comply with the Clean Water Act by April 30. A separate public comment period for the Washington Dept. of Ecology regarding the same proposed in-water work also has been extended to April 30.

This is part of the project the Corps has proposed to keep the channel open to the Port of Lewiston. After my last column the Corps wrote seeking to make clear that dredging is only one of the tools it plans to use to manage sediment.

But dredging is the only short term solution to the sediment that is interfering with commercial navigation. Corps officials also point out they are only following their Congressional mandate to provide a 14 feet deep by 250 feet wide channel at the reservoir’s minimum operating pool.

Dredging is proposed to occur during a winter “in-water work window” from Dec. 15 to March 1. Maintenance dredging has not been performed since the winter of 2005-2006.
Public comments to the Corps about Section 404 requirements regarding dredging and in-water disposal of dredged materials are now due no later than April 30, 2013. Comments may be emailed to: psmp@usace.army.mil

Army Corps officials also expressed concern that I raised the point they had not done an economic analysis of shipping as I reported concerns over the high costs. Bruce Henrickson, a spokesman said such an analysis as unnecessary.

“Since proposed dredging is the only proven, effective, short-term tool available that the Corps has been able to identify to restore the navigation channel to Congressionally authorized dimensions, there is no other tool to compare it to, and a cost-effectiveness analysis is not required to help us choose which short-term tool to use to meet the immediate need, he wrote.

He also pointed out that the changes to the size of fires and erosion that are forecast to come from climate change are beyond the Army Corps’ purview.

“We’ll continue to do our best to manage sediment coming our way from sources beyond our control,” Henrickson said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West