The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Corps had indeed taken a ‘hard look’ at the environmental and economic factors of the channel improvement project. ‘Based on the Corps’ extensive examination of the project’s cumulative, direct and economic impacts, we agree with the district court that the Corps has taken the required hard look,’ read the opinion. Northwest Environmental Advocates argued on March 7, 2006, that the Corps had erred in conducting and preparing environmental evaluations and documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act.
‘Once again, the courts have agreed with our arguments,’ said Laura Hicks, project manager for the Corps. ‘We have nearly two decades worth of work—evaluating this project and ensuring that it complies with all applicable laws’to stand behind.’ In 2005, the Corps deepened the navigation channel from river mile (RM) 3 to RM 21 and RM 94 to RM 102 to its newly authorized depth of 43 feet. The Corps recently awarded a contract to Bean Stuyvesant of New Orleans for this year’s deepening work between river miles 21 and 32 and river miles 91 to 94. Work is already underway.
In addition, the Corps performed environmental restoration work at Lord Walker Island, and will being mitigation work at Woodland Bottoms and restoration work at Tenasillahe Island soon. The work will restore fish and wildlife habitat, enhance juvenile salmonid feeding and rearing habitat, and provide for fish passage.
The Columbia River Channel Improvement Project is a federal effort to deepen the 600-foot-wide Columbia River navigation channel from 40 feet to 43 feet along its 106-mile length from the mouth of the Columbia River to Portland/Vancouver. Fifteen years of evaluation has found the project to be in the national interest, providing $18.8 million in annual transportation cost savings. The cost of the project is estimated at $150 million, $95 million of which will be paid for by the federal government. The states of Oregon and Washington will fund the remainder of the costs.