What Future for the Lower Snake River Waterway?

navigationIn late 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers’ in Washington State released a document and started a critically important conversation about the future of the lower Snake River waterway – and its use as a barge transportation corridor. It’s a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) about sediment management for the waterway. Save Our wild Salmon, in concert with several others groups and the Nez Perce Tribe, has begun work to understand this Dredging DEIS, how the Army Corps would like to manage sediment, shipping and taxpayer dollars in the Lower Snake River for decades to come. The results of our collective research culminated in extensive comments that we submitted in late March before the comment deadline. 

Though the Army Corps is not explicit, the future of the waterway as a transportation corridor is this document's real subject and issue. Read below to learn how this new regional discussion is taking shape. Local citizens are challenging the Army Corps' numbers and analyses. Understanding the actual value of this waterway in the 21st Century - its costs and benefits - and who pays and who benefits - and its risks, must be the foundation for any decisions about its future. Freight transport options in and out of the Lewiston/Clarkston area are essential for local farmers and other businesses, but shipping alternatives exist and these need to be part of this larger discussion.  

Lewiston Morning Tribune: Waterways exec: dams aren't doomed


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The dams on the Columbia-Snake River system aren't going away anytime soon.
With government-funded projects on the horizon - including repairs to locks scheduled for this winter - and a number already completed, Kristin Meira argued Wednesday that the government is putting in decades-long investments into the dams.

Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, addressed a crowd of more than 60 community members at a luncheon Wednesday at Clarkston's Quality Inn. She discussed projects on the river system and addressed criticism of the four lower Snake River dams.

The latest batch of criticism of the dams, Meira said, ties the Snake River dams to the fate of orcas that live in Puget Sound.

"Those orca populations are steadily trending upward, as we see more fish being provided out of the river system out into the ocean for the orcas to eat," she said.


Tri-City Herald: Port of Pasco may sell crane, end container business

col.gorgeFebruary 28, 2016

By Wendy Culverhill

A big, red Pasco landmark could soon become a victim of falling demand for container barging on the Columbia River.

The Port of Pasco is poised to sell a crane that it hasn’t used in five years, acknowledging its container barge business is all but dead and unlikely to return. Randy Hayden, the port’s executive director, reluctantly recommended Thursday that the port sell its Manitowoc 4100. The port commission discussed the state of marine affairs but made no decisions.

The crane has stood sentry at the marine terminal in Big Pasco Industrial Center, north of the cable bridge, since 2000. The port bought it from a Houston broker for $800,000, then invested another $500,000 to replace critical parts and restore its original red color.

It was previously painted purple and stationed in Pakistan by its original owner, American President Lines.

Fifteen years ago, the investment made perfect sense. The then-busy marine terminal needed a modern crane to replace a failing 1942 model it bought decades earlier from the Port of Portland for $1.

Operators called the old crane BOB for Big Orange B****, and complained it was underpowered, unstable in wind and unheated. They used space heaters in the cab to keep windows from freezing in the winter.

The Manitowoc is a tread-mounted, 45-ton crane. In its heyday, it was used to load containers filled with hay, hides, popcorn and other agriculture products onto barges headed to Portland for transfer onto Asia-bound ships.

That business is gone and unlikely to return.


Al Jazeera: Fight Over Dams in the Northwest.  View here

snakeriverconfluenceDecember 2, 2015.

Al Jazeera TVL  Fight Over Dams in the Northwest:  Northwest Tribes Seek to Clear the Snake River.

Lewiston Morning Tribune: Studies doubt value of Snake River dams

navigationBy ERIC BARKER of the Tribune

November 15, 2015

A pair of studies funded by two Northwest environmental groups conclude the four lower Snake River dams are needed neither to keep the region's commerce moving nor its lights on.

Carried out by Anthony M. Jones of the Boise economic consulting firm Rocky Mountain Econometrics, the first study targets navigation on the lower Snake River and notes commerce made possible by the dams has been in steady decline and at best can only hope to stabilize at a fraction of former levels. Jones writes that container traffic on the lower Snake River has been eliminated and petroleum products have nearly disappeared. With new competition from rail, he said wood products and wheat and barley are down from historic levels, but may stabilize at current levels.

"The long-term high forecast for tonnage on the lower Snake River looks to be about 2.7 million tons," he wrote, and noted the low forecast is similar.

The study was released before the Port of Lewiston announced this week that a small amount of container traffic would return to the river.

At the high point of river transportation, when more goods were shipped by barge and the price difference between rail and river shipping was greater, barging produced a benefit of about $20 million per year. He said based on current shipping prices and river transportation tonnage, those who choose to move products by barge instead of rail save about 2.4 cents per ton, or about $7.6 million annually.


rmecon1For Immediate Release

November 5, 2015

For more information:
Sam Mace, Save Our wild Salmon
(509) 863-5696 //

Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United
(208) 343-7481 //

Anthony Jones, Rocky Mountain Econometrics
208-631-4334 //

Two new reports: lower Snake River dams failing to pay their way

A system of outdated dams and locks on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington state is in continued and serious economic decline, according to two reports released this week by Save Our wild Salmon and Idaho Rivers United.

The reports, authored by economist Anthony Jones of Rocky Mountain Econometrics, look at the dams’ two main benefits or services: flatwater transportation and energy production. Together the reports demonstrate that 1) commercial navigation on the lower Snake River generates less than 50 cents for every dollar spent to provide it and 2) that electricity produced by the dams wouldn’t be missed if it were to vanish from the Northwest power grid tomorrow.

“These reports raise new and serious questions about the economic value and viability of four dams whose costs appear to exceed their benefits,” said Save Our Wild Salmon Inland Northwest Director Sam Mace. “Can our region afford to maintain high cost, low value infrastructure when other valuable projects in the Basin that deliver greater value are themselves facing expensive upgrades and repairs? Costs to maintain and operate this infrastructure are going to continue to rise as it ages.”



Letter challenges Army Corps of Engineers recent statements on the costs and benefits of the lower Snake River dams.

vail.ltr copyOctober 22, 2015

The below individuals/organizations are challenging a statement distributed on Oct. 2, 2015, by the Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District to the media and quoted, or repeated verbatim, by a number of media outlets covering the Oct. 3rd 'Free the Snake' Flotilla involving 300+ participants.

Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United,
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater,
Sharon Grace, Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative, parons@rockisland.com
Sam Mace, Save Our Wild Salmon,
F. S. Buck Ryan, Snake River Waterkeeper,
Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research, whaleresearch.com http://whaleresearch.com/
Howard Garrett/Susan Berta, Orca Network, orcanetwork.org http://orcanetwork.org/
C. Mark Rockwell, Endangered Species Coalition,
Cindy Magnuson, Palouse Broadband, Great Old Broads for Wilderness,
Linwood Laughy, Snake River Resurrection,

The letter signed by these individuals can be viewed here.

Lt. Col. Timothy Vail's Statement, identified by the Corps as "15-069 Snake River Dams provide outstanding value to the Nation," is viewable here.


More Articles...

  1. Oct 01, 2015 - Boise Weekly: Free the Snake: A 150-Boat Flotilla Takes to the River on Oct. 3 to Advocate Against Dams
  2. Aug 18, 2015 - High Country News: Why is bad science protecting the Lower Snake River dams?
  3. Jun 09, 2015 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Farmers closer to shipping solution
  4. Apr 22, 2015 - Lewiston Tribune: Port container traffic on hold indefinitely
  5. Mar 11, 2015 - Idaho Statesman Columnist Rocky Barker: New numbers won't change debate about Snake River structures
  6. Mar 02, 2015 - LMT Commentary: Waddell is not so easy to ignore
  7. Mar 02, 2015 - LMT Editorial: Will taxpayers dub it a 'Port to Nowhere'?
  8. Feb 18, 2015 - Lewiston Tribune: Port of Lewiston sees its container shipping drop to lowest levels in years
  9. Feb 18, 2015 - Oregonian: Hanjin Shipping officially leaves Port of Portland
  10. Feb 15, 2015 - Lewiston Tribune: Once more into the breach debate
  11. Jan 21, 2015 - HCN: Livin' on the dredge: Army Corps mucks out the Snake
  12. Jan 12, 2015 - For Immediate Release: Court declines injunction request to prevent lower Snake dredging this winter; legal challenge moves forward
  13. Jan 04, 2015 - LMT: Port brass defend dredging plan
  14. Jan 04, 2015 - CBB: Lower Snake Dredging Opponents: Loss Of Revenues Does Not Out Weigh Irreparable Environmental Injury
  15. Dec 28, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Pacific lamprey could halt dredging
  16. Dec 26, 2014 - NWPR: $2 Million In Taxpayer Dollars At Risk In Snake River Dredging Showdown
  17. Dec 08, 2014 - Guest Opinion: Aging infrastructure and scarce dollars means tough decisions
  18. Nov 25, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging plan spawns lawsuit
  19. Nov 25, 2014 - Press release: Fishing, conservation groups challenge Corps' costly dredging of lower Snake River
  20. Nov 24, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Clearwater Paper's new warehouse could hurt port
  21. Oct 09, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Lewiston port had difficult fiscal 2014
  22. Sep 11, 2014 - ACTION ALERT - Stop wasteful spending. Protect our wild salmon!
  23. Aug 19, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging on docket for Snake River
  24. Jun 25, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Letters to the Editor
  25. Jun 20, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Activists descend on Lewiston port hearing
  26. Apr 30, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: New economic data emerges in dams debate
  27. Apr 12, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Group says megaloads threaten rivers
  28. Mar 26, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Lock repair at Little Goose has shippers scrambling;
  29. Jan 15, 2014 - High Country News: Megaloads and wild–and-scenic rivers don’t mix
  30. Dec 17, 2013 - Protect the Lower Snake-Oppose Harmful, Unlawful Dredging!
  31. Dec 04, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Getting to the bottom of the issue
  32. Nov 14, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging up an endless debate
  33. Oct 25, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Megaloads company gives up legal fight
  34. Oct 23, 2013 - Wall Street Journal: Road Too Far: GE Strains to Deliver Energy Colossus
  35. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Much more McGregor
  36. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Bye-Bye to barging on the Snake, Clearwater?
  37. Sep 27, 2013 - Al Jazeera: Tribe fights to save historic river way
  38. Sep 27, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: Idaho lost more than a megaload court case
  39. Sep 27, 2013 - New York Times: Fight Over Energy Finda a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
  40. Sep 17, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads
  41. Sep 17, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Judge suspends megaloads
  42. Aug 19, 2013 - Seattle Times: Snake River barging drop: new factor in dams debate?
  43. Aug 16, 2013 - For Immediate Release: Corps Delay to Dredge Lower Snake Shows Need for More Study
  44. Aug 08, 2013 - Nez Perce Tribe Blockades Tar Sands
  45. Jul 26, 2013 - SOS Letter to Forest Service re: megaloads and salmon
  46. Jul 22, 2013 - For immediate release: Five myths about freight transportation on the Lower Snake River
  47. Jun 28, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Port of Lewiston meeting takes an existential turn
  48. Jun 07, 2013 - LMT Guest Opinion: If you do the math, dams don't add up
  49. May 05, 2013 - Spokesman Review guest opinion: It’s time to assess use of shrinking tax dollars on lower Snake River dams
  50. Apr 23, 2013 - AP: Dredge plan draws opposition
  51. Mar 07, 2013 - Old Arguments, New Realities
  52. Mar 07, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Don't take Linwood Laughy's word for it
  53. Jan 25, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging costs rise to top of meeting
  54. Jan 24, 2013 - Rocky Barker Blog: Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams.
  55. Jan 24, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Judging River Dredging Plan By the Numbers
  56. Jan 23, 2013 - The Sediment Statement and the Lower Snake River Waterway
Save Our wild Salmon is a diverse, nationwide coalition working together to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the rivers, streams and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of our region's ecology, economy and culture.



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