Court Refuses to Block
by Tim Fought, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected an attempt by environmentalists to block the dredging of 103 miles of the Columbia River.
The work is designed to give new, larger oceangoing vessels access to Portland and other ports, helping them compete for Pacific Rim business.
The project could be finished in two to four years, depending on how fast Congress supplies money, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court correctly decided that the corps had taken the "hard look" that environmental laws require to protect salmon in the river. The decision also called the corps' measurement of costs and benefits realistic.
The dissenter, Judge Betty Fletcher, said the corps had done suspect analysis of the project's impact on beach erosion and river pollution, and its economic reasoning was flawed.
"The corps is wont to undervalue costs and overvalue benefits so that it can get on with its mission - constructing water projects," Fletcher wrote.
The suit was brought by Northwest Environmental Advocates in Portland. Attorney Steve Mashuda said his client had not yet decided whether to appeal further.
The dredging project would deepen the Columbia shipping channel from 40 feet to 43 feet. Environmentalists objected to the corps' plan to dump sediment off the continental shelf in the Pacific Ocean, taking it out of the natural system that would replenish beaches in Oregon and Washington state and aggravating the damage coastal erosion does to ecosystems and local economies.
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