LEWISTON – The Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft plan for dredging the silt-clogged shipping channel of the lower Snake River, including the berthing areas of the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston.
Dredging is needed to maintain navigation and public berthing areas, said corps spokeswoman Nola Conway at Walla Walla. The corps proposes moving 450,000 cubic yards of sediment for use in creating a shallow water habitat in other areas of the river.
The agency has been trying to dredge the river since 2000, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stopped operations to await more information on the impact on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs.
A federal judge in Seattle ordered the corps to delay a $2.7 million dredging plan last winter after hearing environmentalists’ concerns that the work would hurt the fish.
Environmental groups say they will file a lawsuit unless the plan released Tuesday does better by fish.
“The problem for the corps in general is they continue to look through the short-term lens and do long-term damage to salmon and steelhead fisheries,” said John Kober, of the National Wildlife Federation in Seattle.
Congress has mandated the channel be 14 feet deep. According to the corps, the berthing area at Clarkston is as shallow as 8.5 feet and the turning basin at Lewiston, on the other side of the river, is 10.6 feet.
The corps considered but dismissed plans to limit sediments that reach the river, saying that would not solve the problem, and considered using drawdowns to flush sediment from the shipping channel but found that would not deepen the channel sufficiently.
Corps officials plan to open public comment on a draft environmental impact statement.
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