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 Tribune:  Group says megaloads threaten rivers

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

By Eric Barker

lochsa1The 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

nav lockElaine 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.

Beauty-of-the-Lochsa-croppedSMallHigh Country News:  Megaloads and wild–and-scenic rivers don’t mix


January 14, 2014


by Linwood Laughy


Just west of the Nez Perce Reservation border near Lewiston, Idaho, a 644,000-pound heavy-haul transporter carrying tar sands mining equipment rounded a curve at 1:00 a.m. on August 6th, only to find a human blockade waiting.


Police in a dozen squad cars flipped on flashing lights as over 200 Nez Perce Indians and dozens of their allies swarmed onto Highway 12. Their goal: halting the giant load to protest its transport across the reservation. Over the next hour, the sounds of chanting, drumming and singing echoed from the walls of the canyon.


Then the arrests began, including eight members of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. Another tense hour passed before the mega-transport crept forward toward the Clearwater-Lochsa Wild and Scenic River corridor and the Montana border at Lolo Pass. But the protesters had spoken, and within hours varied media would carry their voices across North America.


My wife, Borg Hendrickson, and I were among that group; for three years, we’ve been trying to block the effort of international corporations to industrialize U.S. 12 in Idaho. The companies say they must travel this remote route to send gargantuan mining equipment to northern Alberta’s tar sands. We say the corridor is a national treasure, a magnet for tourists and not a safe route for these monster loads.



Protect the Lower Snake - Oppose Harmful, Unlawful Dredging!

The Army Corps proposes to dredge the Snake without a lawful plan. 

PortofLewistonOne of the many problems created by the four Lower Snake dams is the massive accumulation of silt piling up behind them. In just a few decades, millions of cubic yards of sediment have settled in the reservoir behind Lower Granite Dam. It's created a worsening flood risk for Clarkston (WA) and Lewiston (ID) and an expensive problem for the Corps of Engineers—and American taxpayers.

Last summer the Corps released its draft plan to "manage" the sediment - involving dredging and other expensive, harmful measures. The agency had hoped to finalize its $55M plan by this fall, so dredging could proceed this winter, but pulled it back for a year in recognition that it couldn't defend the adverse impacts to salmon and water quality. Thanks to the efforts of SOS, campaign partner groups and supporters like you, we stopped the Corps from moving forward with its expensive, ill-conceived plan. 

The Corps wants to dredge to maintain the lower Snake shipping channel.  With barge shipping down more than 50 percent in the past decade, however, the waterway's value to shippers is sinking while the cost to taxpayers is rising. Businesses are increasingly choosing to ship by rail and truck rather than barge.

Desperate for revenue, the Ports can't wait. They're now trying to attract Big Oil - hoping to deliver their industrial “megaloads” upriver via barge, to then continue via truck over Idaho's Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands. This fall, local residents, the Nez Perce Tribe and conservation groups successfully halted - for now - these megaloads from traveling Idaho's scenic corridor due to concerns over highway damage, public safety, threats to the Lochsa River and tribal resources.  


PortofLewistonLewiston Tribune: Getting to the bottom of the issue


Monday, December 2, 2013 12:00 am

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking the public how it feels about ports in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley dredging their berths.

Port backers know where they stand on the issue - excess sediment needs to be removed as soon as possible, they say.

But before they get their way, the work will be subject to a public comment period that ends Dec. 18. (See related information, page 3A.) Waiting for the outcome of that process isn't the only hurdle they face.

The ports are responsible for the costs of their dredging, but always piggyback with dredging the corps does to maintain a shipping channel that's 14 feet deep and 250 feet wide between Portland and Lewiston.

"It's not financially feasible to do it any other way," said Port of Lewiston Manager David Doeringsfeld. "The mobilization cost for bringing dredging equipment up here would make it unfeasible for the small dredging volume we have."

Together the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston anticipate needing about 20,000 cubic yards of sediment removed. That compares with as many as 490,000 cubic yards being taking out of the shipping channel, mostly near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.

Lewiston Tribune:  Dredging up an ageless debate


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Port of LewistonThe lower Snake River dams were primarily built to establish an alternative way to get inland goods to seaport markets. Now the future of the system could hinge on whether river navigation, and the heavy public investment required to keep it going, still makes dollars and cents.

At least that is what critics of the system would like. But thus far, a draft 20-year plan to manage sediment accumulation in the Snake and Clearwater rivers near Lewiston doesn't include a cost-benefit analysis. That has left both critics and supporters of the dams, and the river transportation they make possible, to crunch their own numbers.

Their arguments are based on how much benefit taxpayers receive from maintaining the system. But the real argument is over salmon and steelhead and the effects dams have on the prized sea-run fish.


More Articles...

  1. Oct 25, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Megaloads company gives up legal fight
  2. Oct 23, 2013 - Wall Street Journal: Road Too Far: GE Strains to Deliver Energy Colossus
  3. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Much more McGregor
  4. Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Bye-Bye to barging on the Snake, Clearwater?
  5. Sep 27, 2013 - Al Jazeera: Tribe fights to save historic river way
  6. Sep 27, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: Idaho lost more than a megaload court case
  7. Sep 27, 2013 - New York Times: Fight Over Energy Finda a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
  8. Sep 17, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads
  9. Sep 17, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Judge suspends megaloads
  10. Aug 19, 2013 - Seattle Times: Snake River barging drop: new factor in dams debate?
  11. Aug 16, 2013 - For Immediate Release: Corps Delay to Dredge Lower Snake Shows Need for More Study
  12. Aug 08, 2013 - Nez Perce Tribe Blockades Tar Sands
  13. Jul 26, 2013 - SOS Letter to Forest Service re: megaloads and salmon
  14. Jul 22, 2013 - For immediate release: Five myths about freight transportation on the Lower Snake River
  15. Jun 28, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Port of Lewiston meeting takes an existential turn
  16. Jun 07, 2013 - LMT Guest Opinion: If you do the math, dams don't add up
  17. May 05, 2013 - Spokesman Review guest opinion: It’s time to assess use of shrinking tax dollars on lower Snake River dams
  18. Apr 23, 2013 - AP: Dredge plan draws opposition
  19. Mar 07, 2013 - Old Arguments, New Realities
  20. Mar 07, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Don't take Linwood Laughy's word for it
  21. Jan 25, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging costs rise to top of meeting
  22. Jan 24, 2013 - Rocky Barker Blog: Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams.
  23. Jan 24, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Judging River Dredging Plan By the Numbers
  24. 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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