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Wednesday, July 10, 2024 | Back issues
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Greens Challenge Dredging of Snake River

SEATTLE (CN) - Six environmental groups and the Nez Perce Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its "eleventh hour" approval of a project to dredge nearly 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lower Snake River.

Idaho Rivers United et al. claim the project will harm fish habitat, including Pacific lamprey and endangered steelhead and salmon.

The dredging, set to begin Dec. 15, will help barge traffic pass from Lewiston, Idaho to Pasco, Wash.

But the plaintiffs claim the dredging will violate the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. They seek judicial review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Records of Decision (RODs), which they say the Corps of Engineers released at the "latest possible hour."

"After over nine years of study and delay, the Corps released the RODs to the public at the latest possible hour, just 28 days before the Corps seeks to begin dredging on December 15, 2014, and then released a new version of the RODs with unspecified 'corrections' the following day, 27 days before the Corps seeks to begin dredging," the complaint states.

"This challenge represents the third in a succession of lawsuits over the last decade in which coalition plaintiffs and the Nez Perce Tribe have been forced to seek this court's review of the Corps' eleventh hour determination to expeditiously dredge the lower Snake and Clearwater Rivers without meaningful consideration, evaluation and disclosure of alternatives to dredging, or the impacts that dredging will have on culturally significant aquatic species and their habitat."

The Corps on Engineers failed to take a hard look at the impacts of dredging and refused to consider alternatives, the groups say.

"In issuing its FEIS and RODs, the Corps has violated NEPA and the CWA by failing to evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives for its actions; failing to take a hard look at the impacts of its proposed dredging action on aquatic life; failing to take a hard look at the impacts of climate change; failing to fully disclose and evaluate all relevant costs and benefits of the Corps' proposed actions; and by failing to conduct a public interest review for its activities as require by the CWA," the complaint states.

The groups seek declaratory judgment that the EIS and RODs are invalid and an injunction to stop the dredging until the Corps completes new evaluations.

The plaintiffs are Idaho Rivers United, the Washington Wildlife Federation, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Clearwater and the Nez Perce Tribe.

They are represented by Stephen Mashuda and Matthew Baca with Earthjustice.

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