What Future for the Lower Snake River Waterway?
In 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: Dredging on docket for Snake River
By Eric Barker
Friday, August 15, 2014
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final plan and environmental impact statement Thursday to manage sediment in the lower Snake and Clearwater rivers.
The plan, which is 3,905 pages long and cost $16 million to prepare, calls for dredging the navigation channel of the lower Snake River at the confluence of the Clearwater River as early as between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28 this winter. It also identifies a number of other tools the agency can use to manage sediment accumulation over the next 20 years. The agency has been working on the plan since 2005.
Included in the tools that can be used to manage sediment is raising the levees at Lewiston, a move that has been unpopular with residents of the town that bills itself as a seaport. However, corps spokesman Bruce Henrickson said the only short-term action being proposed at this time is dredging at the confluence of the lower Snake and Clearwater rivers and at the downstream approach to the navigation locks at Ice Harbor Dam.
"We are not proposing to raise the levees at this time or for the foreseeable future," Henrickson said. "That tool remains in the toolbox, as well as others."
Lewiston Morning Tribune Letters to the Editor re: Port of Lewiston, economics of the waterway, and Highway 12 'megaload' traffic
The following letters to the editor were published in recent weeks by the Lewiston Morning Tribune concerning the plans, programs, and policies of the Port of Lewiston, sent by residents of Lewiston or nearby communities.
Letter to the Editor #1:
The Port of Lewiston's website says, "...a primary objective of the Port is to encourage economic growth..." But the port's budgeting money to promote megaload traffic at the port dock and take legal action toward megaload access to U.S.12 veers money away from the port's objective.
Oh yes, megaloads benefit somebody: 1) Asian equipment manufacturers and 2) the Canadian tarsands corporations for whom the Asians get paid (low wages) to make equipment. What the port's attempts to lure megaload traffic does primarily is facilitate the export to Asia of what could otherwise be North American manufacturing jobs.
And while facilitating the export of jobs, the port would be helping Canada's corporations damage one of Clearwater country's important industries: tourism/recreation. Recreationists and travelers visit scenic places, not industrial truck routes. The port would also be back-handing our area's 3rd largest employer, the Nez Perce Tribe, which right now is fighting in court to have megaloads banned from the Wild and Scenic Lochsa-Clearwater U.S.12 byway. The port would further be disregarding the economies and character of downtown Moscow and Coeur d'Alene along U.S.95, for which megaloads have also been proposed. Along both U.S.95 and U.S.12, the port would be negatively affecting real estate values based upon 'scenic' vs. 'industrial' locations.
So the port's promotions and legal action get a "none-of-the-above" rating for "economic growth." Port commissioners need "primary objective" target practice! All they'll "grow" with megaloads is grating relationships with fellow north central Idahoans, economic instability and decline!
Lewiston Tribune: Activists descend on Lewiston port hearing
By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune | Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:00 am
Megaload opponents and tax activists forced Lewiston port officials Wednesday to disclose how they expect to find customers for their recently expanded container dock.
Information, however, was the only concession offered at a lengthy, sometimes testy hearing. It ended with port commissioners passing a $1.9 million budget for the 2015 fiscal year without changing anything, including a $450,000 annual property tax levy for Nez Perce County residents.
Among the more than 15 people who attended the morning meeting was Linwood Laughy, a Kooskia-area resident and leader of megaload opponents. He met Port Manager David Doeringsfeld for the first time.
Carla Timentwa, chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribe's General Council, identified herself as one of the people arrested last year during megaload protests.
She wondered whether the port should be supporting activity in the oil boomtowns of North Dakota because of the violence associated with the rapid growth, which has victimized innocent bystanders.
Nez Perce County property owner Rick Rupp, who lives in Bend, Ore., had a different concern.
"I'm very disappointed, shocked and amazed this port did a dock expansion," Rupp said. "I can see absolutely no justification for it."
Lewiston Morning Tribune: New economic data emerges in dams debate
Former corps employee says breaching some Lower Snake dams now makes sense
By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune, Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Jim Waddell thinks the film "DamNation" can be a catalyst for people like him - a veteran of the federal bureaucracy - to step up and speak out about dams and fish.
Waddell was the top civilian at the Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 when the agency was wrapping up a five-year, $20 million study to determine if the four Lower Snake River dams should be modified but kept or breached to save threatened and endangered salmon runs.
In the film, which will be shown tonight at Moscow's Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, Waddell reveals that he advised his higher-ups to seek congressional authorization to breach the dams.
"I recommended breaching based on me, at the time, not being comfortable with the economics," he said in an interview.
There were too many inconsistencies with the economic portion of the study that showed breaching the dams would cost about $246 million a year, while making them more fish friendly would produce a modest annual benefit. Waddell said he found problems with some of the numbers and some of the assumptions that were used to produce the economic analysis. But he wasn't able to pull the study back to fix the problems.
Lewiston Tribune: Group says megaloads threaten rivers
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
By Eric Barker
The threat of future megaload traffic on U.S. Highway 12 landed the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers on a list of the nation's most endangered streams.
The two rivers are protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and renowned for their beauty as well as their fishing and rafting opportunities. But environmental groups contend the prospect of the U.S. Highway 12 corridor between Kooskia and Powell turning into a route for industrial-sized traffic is on par with more common threats to rivers like proposed dams, pollution and dewatering.
The group American Rivers placed the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa on its annual list of 10 most endangered rivers.
"In this particular case, what is threatened is the special way that people interact with these two rivers. You might call it their cultural integrity," said Scott Bosse, Northern Rockies director of American Rivers.
He said the threat extends not only to the two rivers, but the integrity of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Rivers and Idaho Rivers United contend megaload traffic would undermine the scenic, recreational and cultural values that led to the rivers being designated for protection by Congress.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is under a court order to temporarily ban megaload traffic through the corridor until it completes an assessment of the intrinsic values people hold regarding the rivers, and completion of consultation with the Nez Perce Tribe over megaloads.
Lewiston Morning Tribune: Lock repair at Little Goose has shippers scrambling;
Corps extends dam closure until May 1
Elaine Williams of the Lewiston Morning Tribune
March 26, 2014
Shippers that rely on the Snake and Columbia river system to get their products from Lewiston to Portland were scrambling Tuesday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced an extension of its annual maintenance outage at Little Goose Dam.
The dam's navigation lock will be closed, likely until May 1, so crews can repair a gudgeon, a metal arm at the top of the south gate leaf that hinges and holds the gate leaf to the lock wall.
Barging between Portland and Lewiston has been closed since March 1 for yearly repairs. Such repairs normally take about three weeks on the eight dams between the two cities. This year that work included extra testing to determine if cracks at Little Goose, discovered in a routine inspection on June 13, had worsened.
"Results obtained Monday evening indicated that cracks were propagating in the 50-year-old ... component of a depth and rate of growth that metal fracture might occur if the 334-ton gate leaf was put back into regular operation," according to a corps' news release.
That news wasn't entirely unexpected. The corps had ordered spare gudgeon assemblies for both gate leafs at the dam in September after the cracks were found. Contractors have accelerated the production of one, rescheduling machining and fitting tests so the parts can be delivered to the dam next week, according to the news release.
Little Goose is the second closest dam to Lewiston on the Snake and Columbia river system.
The timing of the announcement wasn't ideal and left shippers little time to prepare, said Port of Lewiston Manager David Doeringsfeld.
Port clients had containers loaded with dried peas and lentils anticipating the scheduled opening of the shipping channel on Saturday, Doeringsfeld said.
Now they'll have to decide if they can wait until May to move them or haul them by truck at an extra expense, Doeringsfeld said. "The customers are the ones out there right now making the determination about how they're impacted and what their options are."
The Port of Clarkston will also be affected. April marks the start of the season for overnight tour boats. The port had expected visits from the American Empress, Queen of the West and a third smaller vessel next month, said Clarkston port Manager Wanda Keefer.
The American Empress, with a capacity for 223 passengers, and Queen of the West, with a capacity for 142 passengers, are the largest boats on a route that extends from Clarkston to Astoria, Ore.
As inconvenient as the delay is, Doeringsfeld said he is glad the weakness in the lock was found without anyone getting injured and that the parts are already being made. "While this is difficult, it's much better than the alternatives."
This is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Port of Lewiston. It has been challenged by dwindling demand for its container service and questions about how committed Hanjin Shipping is to serving the Port of Portland.
Last fall, Hanjin, which handles more than 75 percent of the containers that go through Portland, announced it was discontinuing its service in January. Hanjin continued to call on Portland and this month said it would stay, but review the operation's performance on a quarterly basis.
- Jan 15, 2014 - High Country News: Megaloads and wild–and-scenic rivers don’t mix
- Dec 17, 2013 - Protect the Lower Snake-Oppose Harmful, Unlawful Dredging!
- Dec 04, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Getting to the bottom of the issue
- Nov 14, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging up an endless debate
- Oct 25, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Megaloads company gives up legal fight
- Oct 23, 2013 - Wall Street Journal: Road Too Far: GE Strains to Deliver Energy Colossus
- Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Much more McGregor
- Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Bye-Bye to barging on the Snake, Clearwater?
- Sep 27, 2013 - Al Jazeera: Tribe fights to save historic river way
- Sep 27, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: Idaho lost more than a megaload court case
- Sep 27, 2013 - New York Times: Fight Over Energy Finda a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
- Sep 17, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads
- Sep 17, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Judge suspends megaloads
- Aug 19, 2013 - Seattle Times: Snake River barging drop: new factor in dams debate?
- Aug 16, 2013 - For Immediate Release: Corps Delay to Dredge Lower Snake Shows Need for More Study
- Aug 08, 2013 - Nez Perce Tribe Blockades Tar Sands
- Jul 26, 2013 - SOS Letter to Forest Service re: megaloads and salmon
- Jul 22, 2013 - For immediate release: Five myths about freight transportation on the Lower Snake River
- Jun 28, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Port of Lewiston meeting takes an existential turn
- Jun 07, 2013 - LMT Guest Opinion: If you do the math, dams don't add up
- May 05, 2013 - Spokesman Review guest opinion: It’s time to assess use of shrinking tax dollars on lower Snake River dams
- Apr 23, 2013 - AP: Dredge plan draws opposition
- Mar 07, 2013 - Old Arguments, New Realities
- Mar 07, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Don't take Linwood Laughy's word for it
- Jan 25, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging costs rise to top of meeting
- Jan 24, 2013 - Rocky Barker Blog: Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams.
- Jan 24, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Judging River Dredging Plan By the Numbers
- Jan 23, 2013 - The Sediment Statement and the Lower Snake River Waterway