Remarkably, the previous NEPA process did not put forward a "preferred alternative" in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Choosing a preferred alternative among the two "environmentally preferred alternatives" was too much of a "close call" for either one to be decided upon in time for the Draft report. The purpose of the Draft is to receive public feedback regarding the contents of the report as it then stands. The final version is modification of the Draft report, based upon that input. (See Feds Offer Their "Four H" Approach November 1999).
On October 19, 2018, Donald Trump sent a memo, seeking the speeding up of the CRSO NEPA process. But this memo actually has little directive power (according to Columbia Basin Bulletin authors). By directing federal agencies to complete the process in 2020, it is hoped that a Record of Decisionto might be signed one year ahead of schedule. In pleading for more time from Federal Judge Michael Simon, attorneys for the federal agencies had earlier "said it was not possible to complete unless the agencies were given five years."
"Although the Court agrees with Plaintiffs that there is an urgent need to address the problems facing the listed species, truncating the NEPA process to meet an arbitrary court deadline may be counterproductive to the purpose of NEPA and result in an inadequate response to the Court's concerns expressed in its Opinion and Order," Simon's July 6 order said.
"The Court emphasized in its Opinion and Order the importance of a comprehensive NEPA analysis so that the Action Agencies, tribal and state sovereigns, relevant public officials, and the public generally may be adequately informed regarding the relevant issues and alternatives," Simon said. "The NEPA process must be sufficiently thorough to enable thoughtful and meaningful scoping, robust public and sovereign participation throughout the process, and appropriate consideration by the Action Agencies of the issues raised and reasonable options and alternatives."
As was required by the Court, the defendants June 3 filed a plan to complete the EIS, but instead of two years, they said it was not possible to complete unless the agencies were given five years.-- Columbia Basin Bulletin, 7/15/16
Importantly, the CRSO NEPA process is developing only a programatic EIS, which evaluates the effects of broad proposals or planning-level decisions. The Lower Snake River dams are currently operating under a Project Level EIS, and which contains LSR dam breaching as one of two "environmentally preferred alternatives".
Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendents seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.