Dredging won't hurt salmon, NMFS says

Associated Press, Spokesman Review

PORTLAND, ORE - 5/20/02 -- After taking a second look at deepening the Columbia River channel to make way for bigger ships, federal scientists said Monday the project will not harm salmon and other threatened and endangered species.

Known as biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act, the findings mark a major milestone for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the $196 million project to deepen about 100 miles of shipping channel by three feet between Astoria and Vancouver, Wash.

The findings brought praise from Columbia River ports, which have pressed for the channel deepening to avoid being left behind as shipping companies move to bigger vessels, but left environmentalists and Indian tribes mulling whether to go to court to protect salmon runs.

NMFS looked at the effects on 12 runs of Pacific salmon and Stellar sea lions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looked at Columbia whitetail deer, bald eagles, cutthroat trout and bulltrout. The agencies found none of the species would be jeopardized by the project.

Before starting the dredging, the Corps of Engineers still needs Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management Act approvals from Washington and Oregon. The corps is also redoing its 1999 economic analysis of the project and must get Congress to appropriate the money.

"We are pleased to reach this milestone," said corps spokesman Matt Rabe. "Now that these biological opinions have been signed, we can continue to move forward."

After being sued by environmentalists over their 1999 approval of the project, the National Marine Fisheries Service gathered new information, developed a new computer model, and ran the findings past a panel of experts for review, said Michael Teehan, chief of the Oregon habitat branch of NMFS.

"It showed that a lot of (salmon) habitat issues we were concerned about weren't going to be a problem," Teehan said of the new computer model.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site