Columbia River Channel Project Gets Greenlight

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that Major General Carl A. Strock, Director of Civil Works, has signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project. Construction of the navigation improvements and associated ecosystem restoration features may now proceed after a cost-sharing agreement is signed. Issuance of the ROD - a written public record under the National Environmental Policy Act explaining why the agency has decided upon a particular course of action - clears the way for the Corps' Portland District to begin work improving the federal navigation channel that stretches 103 miles between the Pacific Ocean and Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. The project includes deepening the navigation channel by three feet and construction of several ecosystem restoration features.

Maj. Gen. Strock called the decision "an investment in a strengthened U.S. economy and the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest." The project has received all the necessary state and federal approvals. The Corps issued its final supplemental project report and environmental impact statement in January 2003. The report was prepared in response to questions raised following the issuance of the original project report in 1999. The supplemental report was prepared following an 18-month-long consultation with NOAA-Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address those questions.

The Corps has applied for and received water quality certifications and concurrences with its coastal zone management consistency determinations from the states of Oregon and Washington. As a result of the conditions included in the states' approvals, the Corps will not proceed with the Lois-Mott embayment and Miller-Pillar Island ecosystem restoration projects, and instead will take some dredged materials to the ocean.

Additionally, the embayment portion of the Martin Island mitigation site will not be constructed. The result of these changes is a final cost estimate of $136 million, an increase of about $2 million from the final Supplemental Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement published in January 2003. The project will return a $1.66 benefit for every $1 spent on construction.

"This project has been subjected to the highest levels of scrutiny and has the support of business leaders, the states that use the Columbia River for international trade, as well as the maritime community," Maj. Gen. Strock said. "The project is technically feasible, economically justified, in compliance with environmental statutes, and in the public interest."

The Corps received $3.5 million as part of the 2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act. That funding will be used for ecosystem restoration and to begin preparation of plans and specifications for a construction contract to begin deepening the channel, according to project manager Laura Hicks.

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