Groups Oppose Dredging of Snake Riverby Staff
The Idaho Statesman, November 3, 2002
Corps says it meets requirements and will start this winter
LEWISTON -- Environmental groups are forming organized opposition to a 20-year federal plan to dredge the lower Snake River that would begin this winter.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to deepen the shipping channel and remove sediment from ports and recreation areas.
But the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition says the plan will harm salmon and steelhead, is based on faulty economics and ignores alternatives.
“Numerous agencies and tribes have urged them not to do it, and as usual, you have the corps barreling ahead with their preferred approach,” said Jan Hasselman of the National Wildlife Federation in Portland.
Hasselman said the corps used economic analysis that is outdated and has been discredited and removed from other corps documents.
A review of the economic analysis commissioned by the coalition says the corps used inflated estimates of the amount of wheat expected to be shipped on the river, which increased projected economic benefits.
A corps spokeswoman said the figures were updated with newer figures and run again and still showed dredging will have a positive economic impact.
“The new forecast lowered projections for commodities shipments but had minimal effects on the results and did not change the original findings,” Nola Conway said.
Hasselman would not say whether the coalition will file a lawsuit to try to stop the dredging plan but hinted the group was leaning in that direction.
Conway noted that the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for recovery of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs, approved the plan.
“Environmental compliance has been coordinated with the appropriate agencies,” she said.
Dredging in the Lower Granite Pool is to begin this winter. The draft plan covers the Snake River from the Port of Lewiston on the Clearwater River to McNary Dam on the Columbia River.
The channel between Lower Granite Dam and Lewiston has the most urgent dredging need.
Port of Lewiston manager David Doeringsfeld said grain barges have not been filled to capacity for the past year because sediment build-up has made the river too shallow. About 250 grain barges leave ports on the lower Snake River each year, he said.
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