Environmentalists Oppose Lower Snake River Dredgingby Associated Press
State & Local Wire, January 7, 2002
LEWISTON, Idaho -- A coalition of environmental and sportsmen's groups filed objections on Monday to a plan for dredging the Lower Snake River downstream from Idaho's only port city.
Idaho Rivers United, the National Wildlife Federation and others maintain the dredging plan, which also includes the option of raising the levees in Lewiston by three feet, would harm salmon and steelhead runs that are already suffering from past river management strategies.
"Salmon and steelhead are already in serious trouble because of the Corps' past actions in this river, and they will be put at even greater risk by this proposal," federal attorney Jan Hasselman said in a prepared statement. As part of its 20-year, multimillion-dollar plan to maintain the channel and dispose of the sediment, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin dredging the river from Lewiston to the Lower Granite Dam next winter. It wants to maintain a 14-foot-deep and 250-feet-wide navigation channel on both the Snake and Clearwater rivers that meet at Lewiston.
To avoid the possibility of flooding from the deepening sediment at the confluence, the levees would be raised.
The environmental groups maintain the plan will not solve the long-range problem of persistent sedimental buildup behind Lower Granite Dam.
Bert Bowler of Idaho Rivers United called the Corps plan an expensive Band-Aid with a levee that would wind up separating Lewiston from an important asset, its riverfront.
The groups claim the Corps ignored less environmentally disruptive alternatives to dredging like reducing the maximum load barges can carry or partially removing the dam.
"Raising the levees and dredging are not long-term solutions," Bowler said. "The best long-term, safest and most cost-effective way out of this predicament is to partially remove Lower Granite Dam."
Lewiston officials have also expressed concern about the plan because the levee work is set to begin in 2005 just as tourists are expected to descend on the region for the Lewis-Clark Expedition Bicentennial.
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