Corps of Engineers seeks public input on Sediment Management Plan

LEWISTON, ID - Sediment build-up in the lower Snake River has been causing problems for The Army Corps of Engineers for years.

Now, leaders from the corps believe they've found a solution.

From the surface, the Snake River looks nice and calm, but as it flows, sediment builds on the bottom which interferes with river navigation for barges. To fix this, the river channel needs to be 250-feet wide by 14-feet deep.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has identified and evaluated sediment management strategies for the lower Snake River. Based on the analysis presented in an Environmental Impact Statement and public comments from previous years, the Corps will adopt and implement a Sediment Management Plan to manage sediment within the lower Snake River.

They said dredging is the only effective method right now, but the plan includes long-term actions too.

"This is not just a dredging plan," said Bruce Henrickson. "It's a comprehensive Sediment Management Plan with a toolbox of tools that we go to if sediment causes problems."

Some of these tools include, in-water structures, such as dikes or bendway weirs.

Henrickson said they chose dredging to re-establish the federal navigation channel, because it's the only tool in the toolbox that works best.

Leaders from Idaho Rivers United said they're still reviewing all the documents, but at this point they don't agree with the Corps plan.

"I think it's a very shallow tool box because all the different options in their tool box end with dredging," said Kevin Lewis. "I think that the numbers clearly show the usage of the waterway has dropped over the years, and the expense continues to increase in order to maintain that waterway as a shipping route. Especially when we have a viable railroad right next to the waterway."

Henrickson said if there are future sediment problems they may resort to other methods in their tool box, but it all depends on what the problem is and what the best tool is to fix it. He said he believes they've looked at all the alternatives and right now this is the best solution.

"Any future tool usage beyond the current proposed dredging is subject to a separate environmental review by the Corps," said Henrickson. "So, the public will be hearing about any future tools."

The Corps is looking for your input on their plan. You can find a link to their website on KLEW News facebook page. The public comment period starts Friday and ends on September 22nd. After they've gathered everyone's comments they'll take several weeks to review them, then they'll be sent off to the Corps headquarters.