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Dredging Of Lower Snake River Channel Begins

Dredging of the Lower Snake River started Monday after a delay of several weeks due to a court challenge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lined up two dredges to make up for lost time. The dredges are removing accumulated silt and shoals in the Snake River navigation channel and port berths near the Idaho-Washington border.

Grain shippers and tow boat captains are thankful to see the work begin. Rob Rich is a vice president with the barge line Shaver Transportation.

"The dredging at Ice Harbor Dam is critical,” he said. “The dredging at the port of Lewiston and Clarkston, critical as well. When you're in a position where you have known groundings -- these are with seasoned veteran captains of 20, 30, or 40 years of experience having the same result -- it is critical that it occur this year.”

Last week, a federal court judge in Seattle turned aside a request from environmental groups and the Nez Perce tribe to suspend the dredging plan. The challengers claimed the Army Corps gave insufficient consideration to dredging alternatives.

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