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 Commentary: Waddell is not so easy to ignore  

Friday, February 27, 2015  
By Chris Carlson   
           
To breach or not to breach the four lower Snake River dams is again being discussed across the region, thanks, in no small part, to an excellent front page article in a recent Sunday edition of the Lewiston Tribune written by Eric Barker.
           
Thanks, in no small part, also to Jim Waddell, a longtime civilian employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now retired, who skillfully took a part in earlier corps economic studies attempting to validate the thesis that it would be more expensive to breach the dams than to keep them running.

That just did not pass the common-sense test for Waddell. So after he retired from the corps as a deputy district engineer, he sank his teeth into a hard-nosed analysis of claims made by the corps. To say he found skewed assumptions, ignored issues and cooked numbers would be seriously understating what he unearthed.

Allow me a chortle or two. Two years ago I published my second book, "Medimont Reflections," which contained 13 essays on other issues and other people I had worked with during my almost 40 years of public-sector involvement.

Two of the essays should have generated some controversy inasmuch as they dealt with the four lower Snake dams and with the Northwest Power Planning Council, of which I was Idaho's first appointee and sat for almost a year.

Read more...

Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Will taxpayers dub it a 'Port to Nowhere'?

northport12Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marty Trillhaase

Credit northern Idaho for electing to Congress some of the nation's most notorious fiscal tightwads - Steve Symms, Larry Craig, Helen Chenoweth-Hage, C.L. (Butch) Otter, Bill Sali and Raul Labrador.

And they followed up with jeering the loudest against the usual suspects of federal waste - whether it was paying $435 for a hammer, $600 for a toilet seat or $7,000 for a coffee pot during the Reagan era.

For some, it was the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, pouring nearly $400 million into a bridge linking 50 residents of Gravina Island to the town of Ketchikan - famously dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere."

For others, it was the king of congressional pork, the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., spreading $1.5 billion on his "Corridor H" project, otherwise known as the "Highway to Nowhere" because it stops 10 miles short of the Virginia state line.

How many of your own neighbors railed against the Obama administration allocating $500 million to the solar cell manufacturer Solyndra - only to have the company file for bankruptcy and fire all its employees?

Read more...

Lewiston Tribune: Port of Lewiston sees its container shipping drop to lowest levels in years

PortofLewistonJanuary 15, 2015

By ELAINE WILLIAMS

The Port of Lewiston's container shipments declined to the worst level in more than two decades in 2014, and port officials are blaming a union labor disagreement and a contracted operator of the Port of Portland's container terminal.

Lewiston port employees handled 3,240 containers in 2014, said Manager David Doeringsfeld at a Wednesday port commissioner meeting.

That's fewer than the 3,653 containers they moved in 2011, which had been the worst year on record since 1991, according to numbers on the port's website.

Bulk grain was significantly stronger, with 659,169 tons leaving the Lewis-Clark Terminal, a port tenant, in 2014. That figure compares with a high of 952,599 tons in 1995 and a low of 382,606 in 2008, according to figures from the port's website that go back to 1991.

One of the biggest problems is an inability to get empty containers from the Port of Portland so they can be filled with goods in Lewiston and barged down the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland, where they are transferred to ocean-going ships, Doeringsfeld said.

Jennifer Sargent, a union spokeswoman in San Francisco, said Wednesday in an email that the union and the contracted operator of the container terminal, ICTSI Oregon, have nothing to do with how many empty containers the Port of Lewiston receives.

What the Port of Lewiston encountered in December was typical of what happened the entire year, Doeringsfeld said. Twice the port received a significantly lower number of empty containers than what it ordered. In one instance, for example, the port got 31 instead of 70. Had the containers been available, the port would have had plenty of business to fill them, Doeringsfeld said.

Read more...

Oregonian: Hanjin Shipping officially leaves Port of Portland, taking vast majority of port's business with it

February 10, 2015
 
By Molly Harbarger
 
Hanjin Shipping Co. withdrew officially Tuesday from the Port of Portland. Spokesman Josh Thomas confirmed that Hanjin notified port operator ICTSI Oregon and port officials.

Earlier in the day, ICTSI chief executive Elvis Ganda said he was surprised when The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that South Korea-based Hanjin sent its stakeholders a new long-range schedule that showed the March 4 Hanjin Brussels ship as its last to dock in Portland.

Later in the day, a letter to shipping companies that work with Hanjin received a letter saying Portland had been dropped as a stop for container ships. According to the letter, Portland would only be serviced by truck and rail via the Seattle port.

Thomas said Hanjin told the port that the expected last day of service is March 9.

Hanjin ships account for 78 percent of the business at Terminal 6, moving 1,600 containers per week. Those shipments moved most Oregon agricultural exports to Asia, and brought apparel for Northwest-based companies like Nike and Columbia Sportswear in and out of the country.

According to the Port of Portland, that business generated $83 million annually.

Hanjin has not commented yet on reasons for withdrawing.

However, its most recent ship sat for four days waiting to be unloaded while the longshore workers stopped working Friday and Monday to protest their grievance with ICTSI, and the port operator canceled work on Saturday and Sunday, saying the workers weren't productive enough to justify paying.

Tuesday, longshoremen started unloading the Hanjin vessel at Terminal 6. But that might have been too late to keep Portland's biggest customer happy.

ICTSI Oregon is part of the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition with 28 other West Coast port operators who are negotiating a new contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The port operators association has accused the dock workers of slowing down work to the point that they are incapacitating normal port activities.

In Portland, the larger contract dispute is layered on years of tension between longshoremen and ICTSI Oregon.

ICTSI and the local longshore workers have been to several arbitration proceedings, where disagreements between the port operator and the union are ironed out. ICTSI officials claim that workers have slowed down activity at the port for years, even before the latest round of contract negotiations.

This caused Hanjin to threaten to leave Portland for good before. Eventually, the Port of Portland decided to pay up to $4 million to incentivize shippers to send containers through Portland in a bid to keep Hanjin's service. That never sat well with the union, and Hanjin's executives remained skeptical of conditions improving at the port as recently as March 2014.

Read more...

Lewiston Morning Tribune: Once more into the breach debate

LMT.barge.photoSunday, February 15, 2015

By ERIC BARKER  Sunday, February 15, 2015

Once a company man, Jim Waddell now finds himself challenging the agency he spent a career serving.

In so doing, he has established himself as a threat to those defending the four lower Snake River dams and a champion of breachers, who have adopted a new strategy that questions whether the massive costs associated with operating and maintaining the dams is money well spent.

But Waddell doesn’t see himself as the enemy of his former employer. Instead, he is trying to work with the agency and Congress in hopes of correcting what he views as a wrong he helped to perpetuate almost 15 years ago.

It was then that he served as the deputy district engineer — the top civilian at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District — at a time the agency was on the precipice of a monumental decision: Should the dams be breached to save threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead that spawn in the river and its tributaries?

Waddell was a key decision-maker and recommended the agency pursue breaching. He felt there was something wrong with the economic analysis that showed breaching the dams would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and keeping them would produce modest economic benefits.

“Being a program manager in the corps of engineers for a couple of decades, you know when something is not right. You can’t always come up with the right numbers. You just have to say, ‘This sucks, I don’t buy it.’ I had no recourse, I just said, ‘It’s not convincing economics and it’s not convincing biology.’ I said, ‘I recommend we continue with breach planning and prepare to do it.’ ”

His advice was ignored and the agency embarked on a strategy to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to make the dams more friendly to the fish.

Read more...

High Country News: Livin' on the dredge: Army Corps mucks out the Snake

imageDo the benefits of barge traffic outweigh the cost of dams?

Ben Goldfarb Jan. 21, 2015
 
On the morning on January 12, not far from the Idaho-Washington border, a clawlike dredge descended from a crane, scooped up a wad of sediment from the bottom of the Snake River, and dumped the sludge into the bed of a waiting barge. For the first time in nine years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had begun dredging the Snake — a project the agency claims will preserve the economic viability of the river’s ports, and which environmentalists say is just another harmful boondoggle on a river that’s seen too many of them.  

For the feds, mucking out the Snake is a no-brainer. Last year, some 3 million tons of commodities — lentils, timber, wheat and other goods — were barged down the river. But the Snake hasn’t been dredged since 2006, and sediment has built up, especially at its confluence with the Clearwater River. Though the Corps has a congressional mandate to keep the channel 14 feet deep, Port of Clarkston manager Wanda Keefer recently said it’s down to 7 feet in some places, and barges have run aground.

The Ice Harbor Dam is one of two sites being dredged. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Most navigation channels require dredging every two or three years,” says Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. “We’re long overdue, and the situation has gotten pretty bad.”

But this is the Snake, one of the most politically fraught rivers in the country, a waterway where even seemingly routine maintenance is anything but. Though the Corps has timed its dredging to minimize harm to endangered salmon and steelhead, the nearby Nez Perce Tribe is worried about damage to another fish: Pacific lamprey, the prehistoric, eel-like creatures whose populations have been ravaged by dams. The tribe’s primary concern is that dredging will wreak havoc on lamprey larvae, which bury themselves in sediment. The tribe has spent years trying to restore the species, and tribal executive committee member Dan Kane fears that dredging could undo that progress. “We’ve come a long way, but (lamprey) is still a very limited resource,” Kane says.

Read more...

More Articles...

  1. Jan 12, 2015 - For Immediate Release: Court declines injunction request to prevent lower Snake dredging this winter; legal challenge moves forward
  2. Jan 04, 2015 - LMT: Port brass defend dredging plan
  3. Jan 04, 2015 - CBB: Lower Snake Dredging Opponents: Loss Of Revenues Does Not Out Weigh Irreparable Environmental Injury
  4. Dec 28, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Pacific lamprey could halt dredging
  5. Dec 26, 2014 - NWPR: $2 Million In Taxpayer Dollars At Risk In Snake River Dredging Showdown
  6. Dec 08, 2014 - Guest Opinion: Aging infrastructure and scarce dollars means tough decisions
  7. Nov 25, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging plan spawns lawsuit
  8. Nov 25, 2014 - Press release: Fishing, conservation groups challenge Corps' costly dredging of lower Snake River
  9. Nov 24, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Clearwater Paper's new warehouse could hurt port
  10. Oct 09, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Lewiston port had difficult fiscal 2014
  11. Sep 11, 2014 - ACTION ALERT - Stop wasteful spending. Protect our wild salmon!
  12. Aug 19, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging on docket for Snake River
  13. Jun 25, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Letters to the Editor
  14. Jun 20, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Activists descend on Lewiston port hearing
  15. Apr 30, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: New economic data emerges in dams debate
  16. Apr 12, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Group says megaloads threaten rivers
  17. Mar 26, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Lock repair at Little Goose has shippers scrambling;
  18. Jan 15, 2014 - High Country News: Megaloads and wild–and-scenic rivers don’t mix
  19. Dec 17, 2013 - Protect the Lower Snake-Oppose Harmful, Unlawful Dredging!
  20. Dec 04, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Getting to the bottom of the issue
  21. Nov 14, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging up an endless debate
  22. Oct 25, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Megaloads company gives up legal fight
  23. Oct 23, 2013 - Wall Street Journal: Road Too Far: GE Strains to Deliver Energy Colossus
  24. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Much more McGregor
  25. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Bye-Bye to barging on the Snake, Clearwater?
  26. Sep 27, 2013 - Al Jazeera: Tribe fights to save historic river way
  27. Sep 27, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: Idaho lost more than a megaload court case
  28. Sep 27, 2013 - New York Times: Fight Over Energy Finda a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
  29. Sep 17, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads
  30. Sep 17, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Judge suspends megaloads
  31. Aug 19, 2013 - Seattle Times: Snake River barging drop: new factor in dams debate?
  32. Aug 16, 2013 - For Immediate Release: Corps Delay to Dredge Lower Snake Shows Need for More Study
  33. Aug 08, 2013 - Nez Perce Tribe Blockades Tar Sands
  34. Jul 26, 2013 - SOS Letter to Forest Service re: megaloads and salmon
  35. Jul 22, 2013 - For immediate release: Five myths about freight transportation on the Lower Snake River
  36. Jun 28, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Port of Lewiston meeting takes an existential turn
  37. Jun 07, 2013 - LMT Guest Opinion: If you do the math, dams don't add up
  38. May 05, 2013 - Spokesman Review guest opinion: It’s time to assess use of shrinking tax dollars on lower Snake River dams
  39. Apr 23, 2013 - AP: Dredge plan draws opposition
  40. Mar 07, 2013 - Old Arguments, New Realities
  41. Mar 07, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Don't take Linwood Laughy's word for it
  42. Jan 25, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging costs rise to top of meeting
  43. Jan 24, 2013 - Rocky Barker Blog: Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams.
  44. Jan 24, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Judging River Dredging Plan By the Numbers
  45. Jan 23, 2013 - The Sediment Statement and the Lower Snake River Waterway
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