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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
PO Box 2946
Portland, OR
97208-2946

503-808-4510

ColumbiaNavChannel@usace.army.mil

Channel Maintenance Plan

Lower Columbia River Channel Maintenance Planning

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the lower Columbia River ports of Longview, Kalama, Woodland, Vancouver and Portland are conducting a joint environmental review to aid in developing a plan to ensure that the Lower Columbia River Federal Navigation Channel is maintained and operational for another 20 years. The Channel Maintenance Plan will include actions to manage dredged material while evaluating effects on the Lower Columbia environmental and socioeconomic resources. With this plan, the Corps, these Sponsor Ports, federal and state agencies, other ports and stakeholders will better understand what needs to be done—and do it well—to ensure a reliable deep-draft navigation channel.

The Corps and Sponsor Ports will evaluate environmental effects and plan alternatives (including ways to reduce dredging requirements) in an environmental impact statement and will select a dredged material management plan based on this analysis.

This stretch of the Columbia River, which extends from river mile 3 at the Mouth of the Columbia River to river mile 105.5, near Vancouver, Washington, is part of the Columbia & Lower Willamette Federal Navigation Channel Project. Nearly 55 million tons of cargo were transported on this stretch in 2015. A well-maintained channel supports regional and local jobs and provides significant and direct economic benefits.

Why Now?

Existing dredged material placement sites are nearing capacity and space is needed for the estimated 6 to 8 million cubic yards of material to be dredged each year. The process of updating the plan may also identify ways to improve engineering and environmental stewardship practices and recognize opportunities to adapt to other changes over time.

Getting to a Plan

In partnership with the Sponsor Ports and with input from other stakeholders and the public, the Corps will determine the best management plan for upland and in-water dredged material placement, evaluate ways to reduce dredging requirements and consider impacts to the natural resources of the lower Columbia. The Corps and Sponsor Ports will evaluate alternatives and environmental effects in a joint environmental impact statement and select the preferred management plan based on this analysis. This assessment and environmental review will determine:

  • Current and forecasted dredging needs.
  • If it is possible to extend the space available (capacity) of existing material placement sites.
  • Potential uses of dredged material to benefit the environment or other conditions, such as creation of fish and wildlife habitat and ecosystem restoration.
  • Combinations of new placement sites, taking into consideration different placement methods, locations and periods of use.
  • Actions necessary to implement the final plan in the coming years, such as revised permitting processes, acquisition of land for new placement sites, and improvement of current channel maintenance structures (pile dikes), among others.

With this information, the Corps will organize the best options into a preferred maintenance plan for public discussion and comment. Once complete, the plan will help define the next 20 years of channel maintenance on the Lower Columbia River.

NEPA & SEPA - The Environmental Policy Act Process

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 is one of the nation’s oldest environmental laws that encourages federal agencies to make environmentally responsible decisions. NEPA requires all federal agencies to consider and disclose the environmental effects of their proposed actions in an environmental impact statement. The Citizen's Guide to NEPA explains this law and how to effectively submit your input.

Similarly, the Washington State Environmental Policy Act, known as SEPA, requires identification and evaluation of probable environmental impacts and mitigation measures related to agency decisions. The Citizen's Guide to SEPA Review and Commenting explains this law and how to effectively submit your input.

To satisfy the requirements of NEPA and SEPA, the Corps and Sponsor Ports will be jointly preparing an integrated EIS for the Plan. The Washington Sponsor Ports will be co-lead agencies under SEPA, with the Port of Longview serving as the nominal SEPA lead agency for purposes of SEPA compliance.

Collecting the right level of information at the right time is important to developing this plan. This requires early and frequent engagement of all affected federal, state and local agencies, affected Native American Tribes, and interested groups and individuals.

Examples of areas for evaluation in the EIS include:

Air Quality
Water Quality
Biological Environment
Socioeconomics
Land Use
Recreation
Aesthetics
Historic and Cultural Resources
Transportation