It’s been almost 20 years since the federal action agencies (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bonneville Power Administration) analyzed the socio-economic and environmental effects of operating 14 multi-purpose federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

This fall, the action agencies begin a five-year process to prepare an environmental
impact statement (EIS) on the system operation and maintenance of these dams.
The Action Agencies will use this EIS process to assess and update their approach for
long-term system operations and configuration, effectively guiding environmental and human relationships with the Columbia River System for another generation. Information can be found at

On Monday, November 14th the action agencies are sponsoring an open house from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA to receive public input that will “… help define the issues, concerns, and the scope of alternatives to be addressed in the EIS.”
At the Lake Roosevelt Forum Conference that begins on November 15th, a plenary session will also help the public understand the historical context, related issues, and how to be engaged.

The importance of this effort cannot be understated. It strikes at the heart of analyzing the socio-economic and environmental effects of operating 14 dams on the Columbia River System, then determining an array of alternatives that will directly impact the operation of these projects and measures to minimize their impacts. Whether one is concerned with salmon, the cost of power, irrigation, cultural resources, recreation, flood control and more, the very character of the Northwest ends up being on the table for discussion.

Updating the EIS was spurred by a U.S. District Court decision from Judge Simon. Noted Judge Simon, updating the EIS can ignite consideration of innovative solutions and public officials ability to better “… evaluate the costs and benefits of various alternatives.”

In the agencies notice of intent to prepare the EIS and conduct public scoping sessions for input, action agencies sited examples of high profile alternatives that may be explored. On the operational side, these include dam breaching, altering operations for affecting river flows, and structural modifications to improve fish passage. Examples of non-operational options include improving habitat conditions, altering the hatchery operations, and managing terns and other species that prey on endangered species.  

There is no cost to attend the open house, with participants being able to come in at any time during the three hours to engage with action agencies. Click here to register for the conference.