Comment period on channel deepening extended


Those who haven’t had time to read through the voluminous environmental documents prepared on deepening the Grays Harbor navigation channel will have another chance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday the comment period for the project will be extended to April 8.

“We extended the comment period from 45 days to 60 days because we received a request to extend the review and comment period, and we found that our schedule would allow for that extension,” said Patricia Graesser of Corps media relations.

The Corps is updating its Environmental Impact Statement in order to deepen 14.5 miles of the navigation channel to its legally authorized depth of 38 feet, two feet below its current depth.

Corps studies show the deeper channel would allow the Port of Grays Harbor to be more efficient, a value of $4.4 million every year.

Right now, many vessels can’t be loaded to their full capacity, or have to wait on the tides — sometimes for days — in order to move in and out of the Harbor.

“It matters because it reduces the efficiency of shipping, it increases the costs of shipping, which ultimately increases the cost of the goods being shipped,” Project Manager Josh Jackson said at a public meeting last month.

Environmental studies have shown no significant impact from the additional depth and dredging, but some locals have expressed concern about impacts to shellfish growers.

Brady Engvall, former owner of Brady’s Oysters and a shellfish advocate, said the depth in the channel could increase the wave energy in Grays Harbor, damaging spits oyster growers rely on to shelter their beds.

So far, four comments have been received, Jackson said Friday. Three have been letters of support for the project, and one asked questions about impacts to juvenile salmon and whether deepening would increase annual maintenance dredging.

If the plans are approved, the Port hopes to deepen the channel during the 2016 dredging season.

The draft re-evaluation report, draft supplemental EIS and appendices are available to review online at http://1.usa.gov/MS6jUw.

Comments can be submitted to GraysHarborComments@usace.army.mil or through the mail to Josh Jackson, CENWS-PM-CP, PO Box 3755, Seattle, WA 98124.

 

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