Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams

Idaho historian Keith Petersen asked the question in his 1995 book River of Life, Channel of Death: “Will the government continue to pour money” into the maintenance costs of the four lower Snake Dams in Washington?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released for public comment a plan dredge the channel over the next 50 years. The Lower Snake River Programmatic Sediment Management Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement looks at several alternatives but the preferred alternative inevitably is to dredge the channel for the first time since 1995. This week they extended the comment period From Feb. 8 to March 26.

“We extended the public comment period to allow for more complete public input,” said District Commander Lt. Col. Andrew Kelly. “The draft Environmental Impact Statement is fairly lengthy and complex because we took a very broad look at sediment management options.”

But Kelly wanted to make a strong point: “This is about potential long-term options beyond just dredging.”

That’s because the environmental impacts of dredging will always be a challenge, a pinch point for activists who prefer the alternative of removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

The Corps under law is supposed to maintain the lower Snake River navigation channel at 14 feet deep and 250 feet wide. In the draft EIS, the Corps is proposing a long-term plan to manage, and prevent if possible, river sediment deposition behind all four dams, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite Locks and Dams.

But it also examines dredging next winter from Dec. 15 to March 1.

Back to Peterson, he reported the Corps knew that two million cubic yards of sediment would collect behind Lower Granite Dam at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers at Lewiston. But when the dams were authorized, another dam, the Asotin Dam, which was planned upstream of the Washington town on the Snake, was expected to collect 80 percent of the sediment.

It was never built and the sediment problem has grown into a costly problem that adds to the costs and the subsidies necessary for keeping the dams for navigation, power production, and around Lewiston, flood control. Simply raising the levees has been loudly rejected by Lewiston residents.

So this process is going to be the immediate legal center of the fight over salmon and dams. Enter Linwood Laughy, a Kooskia resident who with his partner Karen "Borg" Hendrickson stood against the megaloads of ExxonMobile mining equipment that had been scheduled to be shipped through the Port of Lewiston to the Tar Sands region of Canada.

Their legal fight helped force the oil company to look for another route, foiling long term plans of the Port to cash in on a new customer for its underused facilities.

Now Laughy is opposing the Corps plans sounding like a Tea Party activist. He calls the EIS a $16 million big government plan for another $30 million in dredging costs over the next decade.

Adding these costs together with inflation and interest he estimates the $10 year cost for the “taxpayer subsidy” to keep the Port of Lewiston open at $39 million. And sedimentation would continue to increase, he said.

“These projected cost figures are for channel dredging only and do not include the Corps’ ongoing sediment monitoring and contract management costs,” Laughy writes. “Operational costs for the locks on the lower Snake, the millions of dollars regularly spent on lock and dam maintenance, or the billions of dollars required for salmon recovery efforts.”

Using the same math that libertarian salmon restoration critics use when they say it costs $400 a fish, Laughy says taxpayers pay about $19,000 for each fully loaded barge leaving the Port of Lewiston for dredging and sediment management planning.

When the Idaho Statesman wrote its historic editorials in 1997 calling for the breaching of the four dams, it pointed to these subsidies and others as part of the reason breaching added up to a net gain for the Idaho and Pacific Northwest economy. The Corps economists in 2000 disagreed saying the four dams' benefits outweighed their costs.

But no one suggested the costs of shipping wheat and other products up and down the Lower Snake could be done without government subsidy. The only way to avoid this is to hike the rates for barging, which would undercut its competitive edge with trucking and rail.

"The fact of the matter is that while people altered nature along the lower Snake, it is impossible, despite sophisticated technology and engineering capability, to control it," Peterson wrote.

All these FIGHTERS...why aren't they in the military?

The pharmaceutical industry is probably giddy.

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Breach 'em.

Taxpayers have been subsidizing these things for 38 years after the promise of great economic benefit to the state. Six jobs in Lewiston? All you folks who are complaining about the budget deficit should be up in arms at this wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars without even considering the ecological damage that has been done to turn this once mighty river into a big, silt-filled ditch. Like most federal agencies, the Corps of Engineers just can't give up that power over us.

It wasn't 'six jobs', it's the whole STUPID ECONOMY!

I hope you didn't fight a war like you gripe.

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Breach issues

Though I support researching the breaching option seriously...I cannot wonder what will happen with all that built up sediment? Certainly it would take eons for the river bottom to return to anything close to normal?

You are probably right.

But we have to start somewhere. It certainly won't get better if we just keep doing the same old same old for another 30 years.

No problem. The experiences of the Elwha, Condit, Sandy,

and dams on the Rogue River show that silt moves out very, very quickly - often in only a few months. The silt-filled reservoir behind Lower Granite Dam might take a year or two - to move the stuff downriver to the next pool - in this case, McNary pool on the Columbia, which would trap any silt that doesn't wash away completely in the high, muddy spring runoff.

McNary is extremely useful to the Umatilla/Morrow Co. area!

Are you so brilliant?

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Yes, and nobody's talking about removing McNary dam.

The 4 dams that ought to be removed are Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor. All are on the lower Snake River between Lewiston ID and Pasco WA. They aren't worth much - are very costly to maintain - and would be easy to get along without.

Several larger dams on the Columbia R, like McNary, John Day, the Dalles, and Bonneville, create far more power and handle far more barge traffic - making them far more valuable. Nobody's talking about removing any of those.

But are you talking about scuttling the Port of Lewiston?

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Yep. The Port of Lewiston costs you big money, FO,

for basically nothing. See the Lewiston Tribune's article last week, quoting a study that shows each barge load costs taxpayers between $13,000 and $18,000. Every load.

Most don't think that makes sense; ship stuff by rail instead, and stop the welfare subsidy. The RR runs right through Port of L property, and is picking up more and more shipping all the time. Shipping by barge has dropped 75% since 2000 - perhaps taxpayers have finally said, "enough is enough." The Port has never, never paid for itself.

Bet you'd agree that we ought to stop wasting taxpayer money.

Continue barge shipping? OK - but it would start at Pasco.

And your point is FO

Tell me what good is the port of Lewiston for anyways???
Tug & barges were operating on the Columbia river before there were any dams, they were able to navigate the rapids. You still have the roadways and railways to transport goods.
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Stupid is as stupid does

Well, fine, but I AIN'T stupid...and you know it.

Where do all you kamikazes come from anyway?

Do you take ulcer medicines?

Always angry. You'll likely be dead before it all happens anyway.

So will this paper.

Long on hollering, late on explanations.

No wonder you have problems here.

Some honest criticism.

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Say what

FO your calling the kettle black just a littler there buddy. "Some honest criticism", more then not your replies are so off topic its not funny.
Take a chill pill dude, better yet take a hand full.

Blow up and dry away. Trolling me is all you got.

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People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Nope

Some of us honest decent citizens have to keep crazy lithium addicted geezers in check or next thing you know you all will be running amuck.
Gonna flag that one too????

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Stupid is as Stupid does!!!!!