Partial Drawdown Does More Damage
by John McKern
You published an article Dec. 20 about an injunction to prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from maintaining the navigation channel between McNary Dam and Lewiston.
For three decades I was involved in preparing many environmental documents for the corps. Before there was so much scrutiny of corps activities, we used dredged material to construct many islands in McNary Reservoir and the lower Snake River to replace nesting habitat for ducks, geese, and other birds that was flooded by the reservoirs.
In the 1980s, we studied reducing sediment coming into Lower Granite reservoir. Most of it comes from agricultural, logging, road building, or other practices on private, state, or federal lands not controlled by the corps.
The corps studied partial drawdown in the 1990s. Fish passage facilities for adult and juvenile salmon at the dams to pass fish would cost billions of dollars. A partial drawdown test in 1992 showed there would be no control of where the sediment would erode. Costly damage occurred at Red Wolfe Marina in Clarkston and to county roads along the reservoir. Partial drawdown does more environmental damage than carefully planned dredging.
The Congress of the United States required the corps to construct the reservoirs and maintain the navigation channel for economic benefits to the region. The Congress has not authorized the Corps to require shippers to lighten barge loads.
All of this information is in the public record. I hope the judge makes the correct decision.
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