Portland, Ore. --
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is issuing a notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement addressing the continued operations and maintenance of the Willamette Valley System in accordance with authorized project purposes, while meeting Endangered Species Act obligations. View the notice of intent here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/01/2019-06258/notice-of-intent-to-prepare-an-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-willamette-valley-system
In the system’s 50-year history, there have been many modifications and changes at individual dams. For instance, the Corps built and rebuilt adult fish collection facilities below several dams. In addition, there have been changes to operation for interim fish passage and meeting downstream flow targets. Those actions required adjustments to how the Corps operates the system as a whole, like keeping downstream flow targets for fish.
However, major changes in the Willamette Valley, most notably the ESA-listing of several threatened fish and the passage of time since the 1980 Environmental Impact Statement, have prompted the Corps to start a new EIS, said Mike Turaski, Willamette Valley Systems Operations EIS project manager.
“This is an opportunity to have a conversation with the public and other resource agencies about the benefits and trade-offs of different approaches to operating and maintaining the system to meet multiple purposes and Endangered Species Act requirements,” said Turaski. “Professionally, it’s an interesting challenge and one that doesn’t come along too often, to evaluate a system that is so complex and important to the public.”
The EIS process stems from the National Environmental Policy Act and includes outreach to the public, stakeholders, tribes, government agencies, etc. Corps staff will begin providing and collecting information from the public, as part of a “scoping” process. Written comments for consideration in the development of the EIS are due no later than June 28, 2019. Comments can be sent to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
P.O. Box 2946, Attn: CENWP-PME-E
Portland, OR, 97208-2946
Comments that are solution-oriented and provide specific examples will be more effective than those that are generic, negative or vague. For more information on the NEPA process, visit: https://ceq.doe.gov/docs/get-involved/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf.
“As an agency, we have an obligation to ensure we have considered and taken into account public concerns,” said Suzy Hill, environmental resources specialist. “The operations management of the Willamette Valley Project has an impact on everyone that lives and works in the Willamette Basin, and it’s really important that we engage with the public, and for the public to engage with us on this project.”
The Willamette Valley System consists of 13 multipurpose dams and reservoirs, riverbank protection projects and hatchery programs to mitigate for effects of the system on fish habitat in the Willamette River Basin, Oregon. The Corps completed the most recent NEPA evaluation for the overall system in 1980.
Interested parties can learn more about the Willamette Valley System EIS here: https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/Willamette-Valley/Evaluation/.