For more information contact:
Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340x1027
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon, 206-300-1003
Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United, 208-343-7481
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, 208-882-9755
Jan. 5, 2015
SEATTLE -- Today the Honorable Judge James L. Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, declined to issue an injunction to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from dredging the lower Snake waterway this winter. The court is expected to consider the full merits of the case itself later this year.
Last November, non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, representing Idaho Rivers United, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Washington Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Friends of the Clearwater, joined with the Nez Perce Tribe to file a complaint challenging the Corps’ approval of a $6.7 million lower Snake River dredging project scheduled to begin this month.
Fishing businesses, conservation groups, and the Nez Perce Tribe challenged the Corps plan developed by the Walla Walla District because it puts salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey at serious risk, purposefully dodges any real look at alternatives to dredging, and in defiance of Corps’ policies ignores the shaky economic justification for the barge corridor created by the four lower Snake River dams. In addition the Corps’ Walla Walla District failed to consider impacts from climate change.
“While we’re disappointed that the Corps will pursue harmful and expensive dredging this winter in salmon and lamprey habitat, we believe that we’ll prevail in the long run,” said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda. “Business-as-usual just isn’t a viable option for this barging system. We’ll continue our efforts to ensure that the Corps’ Walla Walla District stops throwing good money after bad.”
Dredging is the centerpiece of the Walla Walla District plan for maintaining the little-used barging corridor between Pasco, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho. Though shipping on the Columbia River waterway remains steady, traffic on the lower Snake is so low that this waterway qualifies for the Corps’ own “negligible use” project category. Over the past 15 years, the lower Snake waterway’s freight volume has declined 64 percent as shippers move their freight from barge to trucks or rail. Meanwhile, maintenance expenses, shouldered by American taxpayers, have surged.
“We look forward to the Corps’ dredging plan getting the full legal review it sorely needs,” said Save Our Wild Salmon executive director Joseph Bogaard.
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