Judge rules in favor of dredging

Dredging on the lower Snake River can start as planned next Monday, according to a ruling today by District Court Judge James Robart at Seattle.

Robart rejected a request by the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups to delay dredging until their lawsuit seeking to stop the work can be heard. Robart ruled from the bench and is expected to release a written explanation of his order later this week or next.

Dredging is expected to start near Ice Harbor Dam and then move upriver to the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers as well as the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston. A plan from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calls for about 400,000 cubic yards of sediment to be removed from the navigation channel and port berthing areas.

The tribe and environmental groups claim the corps failed to consider potential harm to Pacific lamprey, the effects of climate change and alternatives to dredging when it spent several years and $16 million to develop a long-term plan to deal with sediment buildup in the river.

The river was last dredged in 2006 and the navigation channel, authorized by Congress at 14 feet deep, is as shallow as 7 feet in some places.