The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comment on its plan to dredge portions of the lower Snake River.
The comment period for the plan and environmental impact statement is Aug. 22-Sept. 22.
Public affairs specialist Bruce Henrickson said the plan has built-in triggers for immediate and long-term needs.
Currently, the immediate need is to return the navigation channel on the lower Snake River to its congressionally authorized dimensions, 250 feet wide and 14 feet deep, he said.
The corps proposal includes dredging near the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater rivers in the Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash., area, and a small section near the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam.
The area was last dredged in the winter of 2005-2006.
Wheat growers rely on the barge channel from Portland to Lewiston and Clarkston to access international markets, said Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. Grain is barged to terminals on the lower Columbia River, where it is transferred to ocean-going ships for the trip to Asia and elsewhere.
“The inland Snake River barging channel is their link to the world,” Meira said. “Doing this very limited maintenance dredging is really important to Washington, Eastern Oregon and Northern Idaho farmers.”
Without dredging this winter, Meira said the sediment will continue to build.
The corps’ plan addresses all areas of the lower Snake that have developed high spots, she said.
Similar maintenance dredging is performed throughout the Northwest and United States, Meira said.
Meira encourages industry members who rely on the lower Snake River to access world markets to make comments to show their support for the maintenance.
She also expects opposition to the proposed plan.
“There will always be folks who would advocate for dam breaching who do not understand the value of the river system to our regional farmers,” she said.
If approved, the earliest opportunity for dredging would be the annual “in-water work window” Dec. 15-Feb. 28. The corps will soon seek bids in case all decisions are favorable for the proposed dredging, Henrickson said.