Federal agencies say they're on track to issue a draft environmental impact statement for operating 14 federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers by late February.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and BPA are evaluating the impacts of long-term operation and management of the dams and reservoirs.

The analysis will include a No Action alternative, and four other multiple-objective alternatives—one that includes breaching the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams on the lower Snake River.

The agencies also expect to issue their preferred alternative with the draft EIS.

Once the draft EIS is released and a notice published in the Federal Register, the public will have 45 days to review and comment on it. Agencies expect to review the comments and issue a final EIS by June, and a Record of Decision in September.

According to a Corps news release, the agencies considered input from the public, and from tribal, state and local governments during a scoping period before developing the draft EIS.

"The agencies applied screening criteria, such as technical feasibility, to develop a reasonable range of alternatives that meet EIS objectives and balance the multiple purposes of the 14 projects," the release stated.

Last year, the agencies issued brief explanations of the four multiple-objective alternatives. Found on the Columbia River System Operations EIS website, in the Documents Library under Special Topics, the four multiple-objective alternatives include:

  • Alternative 1—the flexible spill option—which proposes a block spill design for juvenile fish.
  • Alternative 2—the low-carbon emission alternative—which reduces spill to 110 percent total dissolved gas.
  • Alternative 3—the Snake River dam breaching option—which removes earthen parts of the Lower Granite, Little goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams.
  • Alternative 4—the high spill options—which increases spring and summer spill up to 125 percent total dissolved gas at the eight lower Snake and Columbia river projects from March 1 to Aug. 31.

Anyone wishing to receive updates about the EIS process can be added to the project mailing list by sending an email to info@crso.info, or provide a name and mailing address on a message line at 800-290-5033.

K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.