Corps unveils plan for local dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District (Corps) is asking for public feedback through Jan. 19 on its proposed 30-year plan for the operation and maintenance of its system of 13 dams and reservoirs across the Willamette River Basin.

The plan, referred to as a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, details seven potential courses of action – including one most preferred by the Corps –and essentially lays out a long-term path for achieving the congressionally authorized purposes of the Corps’ Willamette Valley System while improving conditions for endangered fish.

The EIS can be viewed at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/Willamette-Valley/System-Evaluation-EIS.

The document outlines changes the Corps can make to accommodate newer environmental conditions – most notably, the Endangered Species Act listing of Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon and steelhead – that have risen since the Corps’ last Willamette Valley EIS in 1980.

Each of the Corps’ seven alternatives proposes a separate approach to managing the system at various dam sites by employing operational measures, like lowering water levels in a reservoir, or structural changes, such as building a temperature control tower to help make water conditions downstream ideal for fish (or a combination of the two).

Ultimately, the alternatives explore slightly different ways the Corps can satisfy the purposes of the system while also improving fish passage and water quality, the primary determinants of fish survival across the basin.

The Corps will hold virtual and face-to-face meetings to discuss the EIS. In-person meetings will be in January, including one in Sweet Home on Jan. 11.

Virtual meetings will be Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Thursday, Dec. 8, from noon to 1 p.m. Log-in link is usace1.webex.com/meet/WVS-DEIS_PublicMeeting.

Following the 55-day public comment period ending Jan. 19, the Corps will enter a review period and then respond to comments in its final EIS in late summer 2024. The final EIS will also provide the analysis upon which the Corps will make its decision.

Comments can be submitted by email to [email protected], or in writing to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Attn: CENWP-PME-E/Willamette EIS, P.O. Box 2946, Portland, OR 97208-2946.