Corps To Hold Public Meetings On Willamette EIS; Focus On ESA-Listed Steelhead, Spring Chinook

Five public meetings in the Willamette Valley are scheduled to provide and accept information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental impact statement process at its Willamette Valley dams.

In its announcement, the Corps said the purpose of the EIS is to “address the continued operations and maintenance of the Willamette Valley System in accordance with authorized project purposes; while meeting the federal Endangered Species Act obligations to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of listed species.”

In the Willamette River and its tributaries listed species include threatened wild winter steelhead and wild spring chinook. Both were listed in 1999 under the ESA. The most recent biological opinion for the Willamette projects was completed by NOAA Fisheries in 2008. The most recent NEPA evaluation for the Corps’ Willamette Valley System operations and maintenance was an EIS completed in 1980.

The EIS is currently in the “scoping” period, or the time during which the Corps collects information, ideas and concerns in the form of public comments to help inform the analysis of potential effects, alternatives that meet the project’s purpose and need, and the criteria for evaluation and comparison of alternatives. Written comments for consideration in the development of the EIS are due no later than June 28, 2019.

The Corps opened a National Environmental Policy Act process with a notice of intent April 1 that looks at the operation and maintenance of the agency’s Willamette River projects and their impact on threatened upper Willamette River wild winter steelhead and wild spring chinook. The first step in the process that could take as long as through 2023 is scoping.

The notice of intent was published in the Federal Register April 1 (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/01/2019-06258/notice-of-intent-to-prepare-an-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-willamette-valley-system).

The Northwest Environmental Defense Center, WildEarth Guardians and Native Fish Society filed a lawsuit in March 2018 in U.S. District Court in Portland against the Corps and NOAA Fisheries asking the court to compel the agencies to reevaluate the impacts of the Corps’ 13 Willamette Valley dams on upper Willamette River wild steelhead and wild spring chinook and to reinitiate consultation.

Although the lawsuit had been filed first, the court had yet to act on the groups’ request for re-initiation.

The Willamette Valley System consists of 13 multipurpose dams and reservoirs, riverbank protection projects and hatchery programs to mitigate for effects of the system on fish habitat in the Willamette River Basin, Oregon.

The Corps will accept comment though June 28 and also at these five public meetings:

June 4 from 4 – 6:30 p.m. at the Eugene Public Library — 100 W 10th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401. Bascom – Tykeson Room

June 5 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at the South Salem High School Library — 1910 Church St SE, Salem, OR 97302. Library – North Side Room

June 6 from 4 – 6 p.m. at the Portland State University Conference Center — 310 SW Lincoln St, Portland, OR 97201. Willamette Room

June 12 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at the Corvallis-Benton Public Library — 645 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330. Main Meeting Room

June 13 from 4 – 6:30 p.m. at the Springfield Library — 225 Fifth Street Springfield, OR 97477. Library Meeting Room

Written comments for this “scoping” period of the EIS are due by June 28, 2019. Comments can be sent to willamette.eis@usace.army.mil or mailed to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CENWP-PME-E

ATTN: Suzanne Hill

P.O. Box 2946

Portland, OR 97208-2946

Comments that are solution-oriented and provide specific examples will be more effective than those that are generic, negative or vague. For more information on the NEPA process, visit: https://ceq.doe.gov/docs/get-involved/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf.

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Learn more about the EIS here: https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/Willamette-Valley/Evaluation/.

Read More at: https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Media/News/Article/1847698/corps-accepts-comments-for-willamette-system-environmental-impact-statement/

Also see:

— CBB, April 8, 2019, “Corps Increases Controlled Water Releases In Willamette Valley: Atmospheric River, Melting Snow,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/442411.aspx

— CBB, April 5, 2019, “Corps Begins Willamette Basin NEPA/EIS Process To Determine Dams’ Impacts On Wild Steelhead, Chinook,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/442409.aspx

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