Plan to Dredge River Haltedby Ray Rivera
Seattle Times - December 13, 2002
A federal judge in Seattle has halted a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge barge channels along the lower Snake River this winter.
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued a preliminary injunction yesterday, ruling that the corps had failed to examine reasonable alternatives to dredging. He also said the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which OK'd the project, failed to explain how dredging in the Snake River would not harm protected fall chinook habitat.
The ruling was a victory for environmental and fishing groups, who are suing the corps and NMFS to stop the dredging, which was to begin this weekend and continue every other winter for the next 20 years. The groups claim the dredging will harm endangered salmon and is out of tune with the corps' pledge in 2000 to protect and restore critical habitat along the Snake and Columbia rivers.
"The injunction gives us the 'time out' we need to resolve the legal and scientific problems that the corps has created," National Wildlife Federation attorney Jan Hasselman said in a statement.
The corps argued that dredging is necessary to maintain barge traffic and is not harmful to critical habitat. The corps planned to dredge in winter because it would have the least effect on the river's four species of protected salmon. The Corps of Engineers is authorized to maintain a 14-foot deep channel in the lower Snake for shipping goods west from ports in the Lewiston-Clarkston area to the Pacific.
Corps spokeswoman Nola Conway said she could not speculate on the effect of the decision until the corps has had time to fully evaluate it.
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