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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Federal judge gives go-ahead to Snake River dredging

A federal judge has cleared the way for dredging on the lower Snake River to start as planned next week, the Lewiston Tribune reports today. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled Monday against a request from the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups to delay dredging in the face of their lawsuit against it, which charges the dredging will hurt fisheries and doesn’t make economic sense. The ruling allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove about 400,000 cubic yards of sediment clogging the navigation channel near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, even as the lawsuit proceeds. The Corps has a $6.7 million contract with American Construction Co. for the dredging, though the price tag is expected to rise.

David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston, told Tribune reporter Eric Barker, “It means the corps will begin dredging as soon as possible and we are glad to see that happen. … Next year we won't be light-loading barges, and more important is the safety issue. There has been six (barge) groundings in the last two years. You have experienced tug captains unable to safely navigate the channel. This will correct that problem."

Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United told Barker, “Obviously we are disappointed the Corps is going to waste more taxpayer dollars supporting a barging system that provides very few benefits to society. It doesn't diminish the strength of our case and we expect to prevail."

The Port of Lewiston is the furthest-inland seaport from the West Coast, and is Idaho’s only seaport; it is 465 miles from the Pacific Ocean. A series of four dams, extensive levees and regular dredging allow the port to remain open to ocean-going traffic including barges. The Tribune’s full report is online here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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