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Judge OKs Dredging On Lower Snake River

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
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 on 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 means dredging of accumulated silt around 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, the 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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.