potential for “substantial and irreparable harm to Pacific lamprey and listed
salmon and steelhead from dredging” outweighs the benefits that a navigation
channel clearing operation might bring, according to plaintiffs seeking a
federal court order to stop a planned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project.
legal precedent, getting a preliminary injunction to stop the planned dredging
requires that the conservation groups and Nez Perce Tribe show that irreparable
harm will result without a court action, and that challenges to the federal
dredging/sediment management plans approved by the Corps earlier this year have
have demonstrated they are likely to succeed on their claims that the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers’ last-minute proposal to dredge the Lower Snake River
violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act by failing
to consider alternatives to dredging and by failing to take a hard look at the
environmental and economic effects of its actions,” according to a brief filed
Dec. 19 by the plaintiffs.
dredging cleanout of the federal navigation channel near the confluence of the
Snake and Clearwater rivers is scheduled to begin in early January.
during the in-court pursuit of a preliminary injunction to halt this year’s
planned dredging have see-sawed, with the Corps and port and shipping
supporters describing claims of harm to fish by the conservation groups and
tribe as “speculative” and unlikely to happen, while the plaintiffs say that
the environmental harm is real and potential economic harm from delaying the
dredging project is exaggerated by the defendants.
economic harms are not to be dismissed out of hand, loss of revenues does not
outweigh a strong probability of irreparable environmental injury,” according
to the Dec. 19 brief filed by the plaintiffs. “Under these circumstances, there
is no basis to conclude that a further delay in channel maintenance will have
more than marginal, short-lived economic consequences.”
request for a preliminary injunction aims to stop the dredging project, which
is ticketed for $6.7 million in federal funding during the 2014-2015 in-river
work window. The planned clearing of a clogged navigation channel in the lower
Snake River is intended to address an “immediate need” identified in a recently
completed National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact statement.
Inland Port and Navigation Group and the Snake River Irrigators Association
have intervened in the proceedings in support of the Corps decisions, and in
opposition to the request for a preliminary injunction.
attorneys, in a response filed Dec. 15, said that “Plaintiffs present only a
speculative harm to Pacific lamprey and fail to raise even a serious question
going to the merits of their claims.”
the motion, by contrast, would leave the channel at dimensions other than those
specified by Congress and continue to present a harm to navigational safety,”
the federal response says.
court has scheduled oral argument regarding the preliminary injunction request
on Monday, Jan. 5 at the U.S. District Court for Western Washington located in
Nov. 26 request for a preliminary injunction filed for Idaho Rivers United,
Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute of Fisheries
Resources, Washington Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Friends of the
Clearwater and the Nez Perce Tribe, asked the court to require the Corps to
comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act
before it takes any action.
Dec 12, the Corps issued a notice to proceed to its dredging contractor. The
Corps says the contractor will need approximately 30 days to mobilize for the
project, and dredging is anticipated to begin on about Jan. 12. The timing for
the dredging is driven by an in-water work window of Dec. 15 to March 1, when
salmonids are less likely to be present. Salmon and steelhead, as well as
lamprey, migrate up and down the river system, and spawn and rear in the
Columbia and Snake and their tributaries.
documents filed by the conservation groups and Nez Perce Tribes say that that
little economic harm will be incurred if the court, via a preliminary
injunction, delays the dredging plan.
sum, the only harm that may result from delayed channel maintenance is that: a)
grain barges take somewhat longer to load, may need to be light-loaded during
some flow conditions, and must be operated with greater care; and b) some
cruise ships may need to continue using a different terminal in Clarkston
because of reduced depth at one dock or otherwise alter their operations.
is not an all-or-nothing proposition -- many of these alleged effects can be
mitigated through coordination, light-loading, and other operational changes;
navigation will not cease if dredging is delayed or prevented.
it is not even clear that continuing light-loading or other mitigation measures
would have a measurable impact on transportation,” the conservation groups Dec.
19 filing says.
CBB, Dec. 19, 2014, “Will Lower Snake Dredging Harm Lamprey? In Court Filings
Feds, Ports Say Such Claims ‘Speculative’ ” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432804.aspx
CBB, Dec. 5, 2014, “Groups File To Halt Lower Snake Dredging; Inland Ports
Counter, ‘Risk Serious Accident Could Occur' ” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432728.aspx
CBB, Nov. 21, 2014, “Long-Term Sediment Management Plan For Lower Snake River
Approved; Maintenance Dredging Set” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432661.aspx
CBB, April 8, 2011, “Lack Of Dredging Behind Lower Granite Forces Balancing Act
For Fish, Navigation, Flood Control,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/407318.aspx
CBB, Jan. 25, 2013, “Information Meeting In Lewiston Highlights Views On Draft
Lower Snake Sediment Management Plan” http://www.cbbulletin.com/424720.aspx