HEADS-UP: NEPA Review on Columbia River System Starting up…

We need our Voice EARLY IN this process!

Columbia River System Operations (CRSO) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – Scoping Tool Information

On November 3, I attended a public “scoping” meeting on the above project in Missoula. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A “Federal Family” (Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Reclamation) has partnered to start a major study. (I mention “federal family” as this appears to be the new buzz word floating around the public meetings associated with this project). Here’s a paragraph from the introductory letter to this project:

“The EIS will evaluate and update the Agencies’ approach for long-term system operations and configuration through the analysis of different alternatives to current operations and maintenance, including changes to flood risk management, navigation, hydropower, irrigation, fish and wildlife conservation, recreation and municipal and industrial water supply. The Agencies will also analyze potential effects on species, including those listed under the Endangered Species Act, cultural resources, tribal resources, and other social and natural resources. This EIS will be used to select a preferred alternative, which will be adopted by the Agencies in order to operate and maintain the Columbia River System.”

The project is at the very front end (Scoping Session) process preparatory to a fully developed NEPA environmental impact statement (EIS) addressing the entire Columbia River System Operations (CRSO). The area encompasses all four states (WA, ID, OR, MT) and will likely take approximately 5 years toward acceptance of a fully completed EIS.

NOW is the time to get comments in EARLY on this project (deadline is January 17, 2017) because a major missing piece appears to be adequately addressing the “human” environment that relies upon the waters of the Columbia. Nearly 13 million folks rely on the lifeblood waters of the Columbia. Current focus is strongly about the salmon, other fish and Endangered Species, and habitat restoration, although agriculture and irrigation is getting some mention. The “human” species is the Big Elephant in the room on this project that must not be ignored.

We need to provide our input to set the framework for the draft EIS to include serious economic cost-benefit-analysis (CBA) so that environmental decision-making factors in job creation, or more likely job loss, effect on local communities, irrigation, agriculture, recreation, etc.

I spent 30 years as a community planner in CA, WA and WI, and am quite familiar with NEPA. NEPA has also been a very effective tool for halting the installation of undesired off-reservation Class III casinos.

I have attached a NEPA Scoping tool prepared for confronting off-reservation Tribal casinos that I created several years ago. It can be used as a worksheet/guide for any comments you want to develop. This NEPA Scoping Tool can be used to examine impacts on a single site, or a broad area, and is not limited to a tribal casino (although it was prepared for that purpose) to give you a list of subject areas to consider in your own local areas, so that you can have your specific local concerns included in the ultimate “Scope” of the first Draft EIS. I encourage you to share this tool with your local governments, school districts, and non-profits – anyone whose life or property may be diminished or devalued as an end result of a final EIS on this subject.

Incidentally, the timing of this EIS study (although it is estimated to take 5 years) will like provide factual foundations that will be part of the discussions when Canada and the United States re-open negotiations on the Columbia River Treaty. All of the Columbia River Tribes, and many others, have been planning for several years a strategy to demand that Canada and the United States fulfill their “moral obligation” to return the Columbia River to the Indigenous people of Canada and the United States.

THAT is why this opportunity to get IN to the conversation and totally track this process is so critical. Below is a websites to give you initial mapping, information and other information that will help you locate the components of this study that directly affect YOU:

Comments should be submitted electronically before January 17th to:

Upcoming public meetings on this event are occurring in Spokane (Nov 14th; Lewiston, Idaho (Nov. 16th) Walla Walla, WA (Nov 17th); Pasco, WA (Nov 21st); Boise, ID (Nov 29th); and Pasco, WA. You can locate venues and times for these and other meetings at the website.

So much of what the “federal family” has forced down our throats in the Western States has been done with minimal public notice, minimal environmental review and no cost-benefit analysis as to impacts on local communities and lives. THIS is a rare opportunity to get IN and stay IN the discussion and development of this major piece that will impact folks in the Northwest for decades, if not forever.

If you have any questions about this, or the attached Scoping Tool, please feel free to give me a call at any time.

NOTE: Please circulate this information widely within your various communities.

Elaine Willman

Gem State Patriot News