US Army Corps of Engineers
Walla Walla District Website

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is updating the 1977 Ice Harbor Master Plan and wants your input!

The Master Plan guides how the Corps manages Ice Harbor project lands surrounding Lake Sacajawea behind Ice Harbor Dam.  Master Plans are about the land – they do not address dam operations (e.g., spill, fish passage, or dam breaching), flood risk management (e.g., levees), or navigation. 

We are also completing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to accompany the revised Master Plan as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  We ask for comments from the public and from stakeholders during scoping; the input influences the decisions we make for these public lands.

The Corps will accept comments from May 1 through June 15, 2020.  See below for information on what the Master Plan covers, the different areas in the Ice Harbor Project, and how you can comment.

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A Master Plan describes how we manage lands surrounding Lake Sacajawea under our care.  It describes:

  • The unique and important factors for this Project that influence management
  • The natural resources on these lands (e.g., soils, vegetation, endangered species)
  • The cultural resources on these lands (e.g., sites of historical and/or cultural significance)
  • The recreational resources on these lands (e.g., the unique recreational opportunities, factors which influence recreation)

Once the resources are identified and described, the Master Plan describes our goals as we manage these resources for the next 20 years or so.  Based on those resource objectives, the current use of the land, existing regulations, and public input, each parcel of land is assigned a land use classification.

This land classification is the meat of the Master Plan.  The land classification determines the main use of each parcel of land (e.g., recreation, wildlife management).  The Master Plan describes each land management unit by name and identifies any unique characteristics or resource concerns for that area.  Restricted areas and no-wake zones on the surface water of Lake Sacajawea are also identified.

Master Plans do not:

  • Deal with details of design or administration of the lands – the Master Plan is a high-level, conceptual document.
  • Address dam operations like spill, fish passage, or dam breaching. 
  • Discuss navigation or flood risk management.
  • Make large-scale changes to how lands are currently managed; there are restrictions and regulations that guide the management of public lands by the Corps.  However, because the current Master Plan is so old (1977) and Corps regulations have changed significantly in the interim, there will be larger than normal changes to this Master Plan when updated.

The short answer is because it is 43 years old and does not comply with current Corps regulations.  Master Plans used to be much more detailed (even getting into how to prune specific species of trees) than our current standards.  The authorized land classifications have also changed to account for contemporary land uses like mitigation.  The associated Environmental Assessment will consider environmental concerns like endangered species. 

So many things have changed in the past 43 years – an updated Master Plan and Environmental Assessment will allow the Corps to take all these things into account as we plan how to manage this Project for the next 20 years or so.

Land classifications determine which activities might be authorized or prohibited on a parcel of land.  For instance, an area classified as High Density Recreation will likely have camping sites, paved trails, more sophisticated bathrooms for the public, and boat ramps and docks.  An area classified as Wildlife Management will likely have more primitive bathroom facilities and other amenities, because the focus is providing wildlife habitat, not recreational opportunities to the visiting public.  The new land classifications are better defined and a bit simpler than the old land classifications.  Here is a chart comparing the land classifications for the existing Master Plan (old) with the currently authorized land classifications that will be used in the updated Master Plan:


There are several recreation areas managed by the Corps on the shores of Lake Sacajawea.  Charbonneau Park and Fishhook Park offer swim beaches, camping sites, reservable group shelters, picnic tables, and boat ramps.  Levey Park and Windust Park are lesser-known gems with great access to the water and fewer crowds.  Click on the link for Ice Harbor Recreation to learn more about recreation opportunities at Ice Harbor.


Fish and Wildlife

Ice Harbor also includes several Habitat Management Units (HMUs) surrounding Lake Sacajawea.  These areas provide habitat for fish and wildlife species.  People are welcome to come and walk around these HMUs to watch wildlife, go birding, and in many instances, hunt, though there may be restrictions on certain weapons for different HMUs.  For information on the HMUs that the Corps manages, please visit the site linked above for Ice Harbor Lock and Dam, or Ice Harbor Recreation.


Cultural Resources

The lower Snake River area, including the Ice Harbor stretch, has been the homeland for numerous Native American tribes for millennium and will always be extremely important to their culture. Protection and preservation of cultural resources is a principal objective of the Corps to uphold treaty and tribal rights and promote stewardship of archaeological and historic resources and traditional practices in perpetuity.