A coalition of 33 conservation and sport fishing groups, including Idaho Rivers United, is worried that federal agencies managing dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers are establishing plans that would take the public out of an important public process.
The groups sent an Aug. 30 letter to the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation that asks the agencies to take a little more time before starting a high-profile environmental process that examines dam operations on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The process is required by a May 5 federal court ruling.
“It’s disturbing and disappointing that the federal government appears to be rushing this important process,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “After telling Judge Simon they needed a half decade to do a thorough job, they’re forcing a scoping period on top of a presidential election and holiday season. This virtually guarantees that citizens’ ability to participate will be compromised.”
The groups specifically asked for a public comment period of no less than 90 days that includes a series of public hearings throughout the region to commence in January 2017. That could happen regardless of when the official scoping period opens.
If public hearings start sooner, however, people who care about recovering endangered salmon and steelhead and stopping taxpayer waste on the lower Snake River will need to be prepared to weigh in, and soon, on behalf of river restoration.
IRU and its allies are hopeful, however, that they can engage in a meaningful process early in 2017 rather than a rushed process that's overshadowed by a high-profile election and holiday season.
“Our ask is simple—to be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the scoping process,” the groups wrote. “Specifically, we request that you not schedule public comment and hearings for this process over the election and holidays.”