WALLA WALLA, Washington – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Walla Walla District invites public comments on a draft Integrated Letter Report and Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) for Federal Participation in Watercraft Inspection Stations in the Columbia River Basin. Public comments are invited beginning Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, through Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.
State-managed inspection stations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington reduce the risk of aquatic invasive species (AIS), such as zebra or quagga mussels carried on watercraft, entering the basin from outside the basin. The Columbia River Basin is one of the last major watersheds in the United States not infested with invasive zebra or quagga mussels.
The Corps proposes to partner with the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington on establishing watercraft inspection stations at locations that provide the greatest likelihood of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species into Corps-managed reservoirs in the Columbia River basin. In accordance with Section 1039(d) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, the Corps has authority to fund 50 percent of the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the AIS watercraft inspection stations.
In the Draft Integrated Letter Report and Programmatic EA, the Selected Alternative would augment existing watercraft inspection programs by incorporating a comprehensive range of measures or “suite of tools” to be used and modified annually, depending on each state’s need and ability to fund its portion of the program, the results of regional coordination efforts, and availability of federal funding. The suite of tools include Corps participation in regional strategy meetings to select the inspection locations, expanding the number of locations or hours of operation, adding canine detection capabilities, improving signage, constructing site improvements, and augmenting existing monitoring efforts and contingency and response planning efforts.
As the Draft Integrated Letter Report and Programmatic EA notes, conservative estimates of average federal and non-federal annual operations and maintenance cost savings associated with deferring an aquatic invasive species infestation for one year is about $250 million. Total estimated costs of the inspection station program within the Columbia River basin is about $3.7 million. Therefore, the benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) is favorable, about 67 to one. These economic benefits do not include the ecosystem benefits of delaying an infestation.
Links to the draft Integrated Letter Report and Programmatic Environmental Assessment are available on the Walla Walla District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental-Compliance/
. Comments must be e-mailed or postmarked no later than Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, to NEPANWW@usace.army.mil
or mailed to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ATTN: CENWW-PD-EC (AIS Letter Report)
201 North 3rd Ave.
Walla Walla, WA 99362-1878
The Corps will consider all comments received. If you have questions, write or e-mail the Corps at the addresses above, or call the Corps’ Environmental Coordinator at 509-527-7245.