Army Corps makes reckless assertions about Columbia River channel projectColumbia River channel deepening supporters are celebrating what they call the ROD, the record of decision that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to start work in earnest. But many who live along the estuary are more likely to think of this event as the shaft.

Maj. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps' director of civil works who played a role in formulating the channel plan, signed the ROD Friday in Washington, D.C., recklessly asserting, "The project is technically feasible, economically justified, in compliance with environmental statutes and in the public interest."

Though the exact number has fluctuated, there will be a daunting quantity of dredge spoils to move. It has been figured to equal the total volume of about 5 1/2 Empire State Buildings. Maintaining the channel over the decades will produce an unending stream of additional spoils looking for a home.

When we last visited the channel project, Oregon and Washington environmental regulators imposed an array of strict conditions that looked difficult to fulfill at an acceptable cost. Washington especially is deeply concerned about loss of beaches.

This worrisome trend probably is related to previous Corps navigation and dam projects, and fixing it requires making certain that much more sediment reaches beaches.

Since the Corps had already backed away from in-river sediment disposal camouflaged as habitat restoration, Washington's conditions seemed to paint the Corps into a corner.

Only as a "last resort" should the deepening project's sediments be dumped in deep water, Washington ruled.

Driving its equipment through this gaping loophole, the Corps' Portland spokesman said Friday "We're at a last resort."

How the Corps suddenly reached this conclusion is a mystery that presumably will be unraveled in court in the lawsuit that's certain to come from environmentalists. If state environmental agencies have any gumption, they'll tell the Corps in vivid terms to think again.

So far, full funding for the project isn't included in the president's budget. Let's write and tell him we hope it stays that way.


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