WALLA WALLA -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a plan that lays out how a study would be done to breach one or more of the lower Snake River dams.
Lt. Col. Michael Farrell, commander of the Corps' Walla Walla District, said in a release that while the status of the Snake River salmon species has improved, "this plan of study is ready should the administration determine that an examination of the risks and benefits of breaching is needed.
"While the Obama administration views dam breaching as a contingency of last resort, it recognizes that conditions may change and we need to lay out the steps to be taken," Farrell said.
The Corps completed a comprehensive feasibility study in 2002. The study evaluated, but did not recommend, the implementation of dam breaching.
The plan of study describes two phases. The first is the completion of technical studies. The next step would be a review by the administration, and, if necessary, development of an environmental impact statement that would include a comprehensive public involvement process. The feasibility report and environmental impact statement could be used to seek congressional authority to breach one or more of the Lower Snake River dams.
The lower Snake River dams affect four of the 13 listed species of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin, Farrell said. The Corps' preferred alternative to dam breaching has focused on improving juvenile salmon migration through the dams by changes in river operations and making major system passage improvements.
"Any decision regarding dam breaching will be guided by the best available science and any biological effects on the species," said Farrell, adding that the Corps operates its dams to meet expectations laid out in the federal biological opinion for adult and juvenile fish passage.
The dams operated by the Corps on the lower Snake River are Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite.