Dredging work in the Snake and Clearwater rivers near the Idaho and Washington state border to aid barge traffic is finished.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1C4x0MH) that work wrapped up Thursday, a few days ahead of schedule.
"Navigation on the lower Snake River is now safer," said Lt. Col. Timothy Vail, commander of the corps' Walla Walla District.
Workers removed about 400,000 cubic yards of sediment to restore the navigation channel to the Port of Lewiston — the farthest inland seaport on the West Coast — to a minimum depth of 14 feet. Before the dredging, barges couldn't be fully loaded because they'd run aground in the channel that was only 7 feet deep in some places.
The dredging is part of a $16 million plan to deal with sediment that forms in slack water created by the four lower Snake River dams.
"We are very pleased with the contractor's performance," said Lewiston Port Manager David Doeringsfeld. "The dredging will eliminate safety concerns associated with groundings and eliminate the light loading of grain barges."
At the Port of Clarkston, Manager Wanda Keefer said it will now be easier for tour boats to use its cruise ship dock. Before the dredging, some of the larger boats had to dock at the port's crane dock with passengers disembarking in an industrial setting.
"It was just the wrong kind of atmosphere for people to get an idea of what your community is like," Keefer said.
Several environmental groups and the Nez Perce Tribe filed a lawsuit to halt the dredging due to concerns it would harm salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey. That case has yet to be resolved. A federal judge in January refused a request to prevent the dredging until the case concluded.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com