Corps fails region with lower Snake dredging plan

Without conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers yesterday issued its final environmental document detailing the agency’s intention to dredge the lower Snake River waterway this winter.

“We’re disappointed that the Corps has spent more than $16 million on a study that fails to examine the full range of alternatives, including the feasibility of the dams themselves,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Removing the dams should be a fundamental part of this analysis.”

The Corps shelved its draft study last year after IRU and other organizations pressured the federal agency for failure to analyze the ongoing feasibility of dredging and for proposing to move forward despite environmental concerns.

“Dredging is bad for salmon, bad for river health and doesn’t make sense economically,” Lewis said. “The Corps plans to dredge at a cost of $39 million over the next 10 years, and that isn’t financially responsible, particularly in this time of dwindling federal budgets and the drastic decline of barging on the Lower Snake River.”

In December 2012, the Corps released a 1,500-page draft environmental study proposing to dredge in the reservoir created by Lower Granite Dam, the most upstream of four lower Snake reservoirs. The plan quickly came under fire from local citizens and conservation groups who questioned itsunderlying economics.

“IRU supports affordable, reliable, modern transportation for farmers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho,” Lewis said. “That includes use and expansion of the existing rail infrastructure, which parallels the lower Snake waterway. Using the waterways for transportation is expensive, outdated and comes at the expense of Idaho’s iconic native salmon and steelhead.”