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Judge Gives Okay For Snake River Dredging To Proceed

Tom Banse
The Port of Lewiston hugs the left bank of this aerial view of the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. Clarkston is at lower right.


Tow boat captains, wheat exporters and the directors of the farthest inland ports in the Northwest are breathing easier today.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart Monday rejected an environmental and tribal challenge to dredging of the lower Snake River.

Judge Robart made a one-sentence ruling from the bench after listening to several hours of arguments in Seattle. He said environmental groups and the Nez Perce tribe failed to meet the tough test for an injunction.

That meansdredging of accumulated siltaround the ports of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington can proceed starting next week.

“We’ve had six different groundings in our area, right within the confluence area,” said David Doeringsfeld, general manager of the Port of Lewiston. “It is imperative that we get this done before we have a severe grounding where we have maybe some environmental consequences.”

An attorney for the environmental challengers said the Army Corps is “throwing good money after bad” by continuing to dredge the lower Snake River. Steve Mashuda of the Earthjustice law firm said he’d wait for the federal court’s written ruling before deciding what to do next.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.