Project costs were cut 15% from 1999 plan.
(Photo courtesy of Port of Portland)

The Corps of Engineers has given final approval to a revised, $136-million plan to dredge part of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington.

On Jan. 9, Maj. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps’ civil works director, signed a record of decision on the project. The $136-million cost is up $2 million from a January 2003 estimate, but down substantially from a 1999 plan that pegged the Columbia dredging at $160.8 million. Reasons for the reduced cost include a decline in the amount of material that needed to be dredged, says Matt Rabe, a spokesman in the Corps' Portland (Ore.) District.

The federal share of the current Columbia River project is about 65%; five Oregon and Washington ports are to divide the other 35%.

Oregon objected to two new shallow marsh habitats for salmon that the Corps had proposed and Corps deleted them from the final version, says Rabe. He says the Corps envisioned placing dredged material in the river to create the new habitats. One would have been in the river adjacent to two existing islands and the other would have involved partially filling in a small bay.

Other ecosystem restoration work remains part of the project.

Plans call for deepening a 103-mile-long stretch of the Columbia, from the river's mouth to Vancouver, Wash., to 43 feet, from the current 40 ft.

Plan would deepen 103-mile section of the river by three feet.
(Map courtesy of Columbia River Channel Coalition)

Rabe says the next step is reaching a "project cooperation agreement with the Oregon ports of Portland and St. Helens and the Washington ports of Vancouver, Woodland, Kalama and Longview.

He says the Corps is hoping to begin work on the ecosystem restoration this spring and to start the dredging in summer 2005. The dredging contract may go out for bids in late 2004 or early 2005, Rabe says.