USA: Corps’ Lower Snake River Sediment Management EIS Delayed
The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is delaying completion of the lower Snake River Programmatic Sediment Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (PSMP-EIS) and proposed dredging of the lower Snake River in Lewiston-Clarkston and near Ice Harbor Lock and Dam in Burbank, Wash.
The delay is due to remaining complex EIS technical and environmental review requirements, plus associated contract planning efforts. The remaining work that needs to be done doesn’t allow the Corps time to complete the EIS and consider signing a Record of Decision (ROD) in time for possible action during this winter’s “in-water work window,” Dec. 15 through Feb. 28 each year.
The Corps continues to conduct reviews required to reach a final EIS. The environmental review process must be completed prior to Corps’ efforts to manage problem sediment, and before a solicitation for a contract can be issued for proposed dredging.
The Corps had been planning to possibly dredge to maintain the lower Snake River federal navigation channel this winter during the annual in-water work window. All in-water work in the river must be done during this annual work window as part of fish recovery and protection efforts. Impact on fish is lower during this time period because there are less fish present in the river. Proposed dredging, if its use is supported by the final EIS, will now be delayed at least a year.
The Corps has also determined that the Port of Lewiston in Idaho and the Port of Clarkston in Washington are now required to apply for individual permits from the Corps and applicable state agencies in Idaho and Washington for proposed dredging of their own port berthing or dock areas. This is consistent with nationwide Corps practices.
The Corps is responsible for maintaining the federal navigation channel in the lower Snake River to Congressionally authorized dimensions of 14 feet deep by 250 feet wide. Accumulated sediment interferes with navigation, recreation and other purposes. The lower Snake River was last dredged in winter of 2005-2006.
Dredging is one of several proposed tools in a PSMP “toolbox” of measures to manage problem sediment in the river. Dredging is the only effective, short-term tool available to meet the need of reestablishing depth and width of the lower Snake River navigation channel where sediment has accumulated.
No final decisions have been made about how best to manage problem sediment programmatically, pending the final EIS, which will be open at a later date for public comments.
Press Release, August 19, 2013