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Corps seeks comments on Shorty’s Island, Meander Reach Ecosystem Restoration Draft Environmental Assessment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, is seeking comments on a draft Environmental Assessment addressing the impacts associated with the Shorty’s Island/Meander Reach Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The project’s purpose is to restore ecosystem function, and improve habitat for spawning and early life stage survival of the Endangered Species Act listed Kootenai River white sturgeon downstream of Libby Dam, Mont.

A draft environmental assessment addressing potential impacts associated with the proposal is available for public review and comment on the Corps’ Seattle District website at: http://bit.ly/QlaeJc  

Interested parties should address questions or comments about the EA or the proposal to Ms. Melissa Leslie, by phone at (206) 764-6587; by email to melissa.l.leslie@usace.army.mil, or at the address below.

The 30-day public comment period closes August 15, 2012.  Mailed comments must be postmarked by that date and sent to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District

ATTN: Melissa Leslie CENWS-PM-ER

P.O. Box 3755

Seattle WA 98134

Overview

Shorty’s Island / Meander Reach Ecosystem Restoration Project
Section 1135 - Water Resources Development Act 1996, as amended

Project Area & Location:
The Meander Reach lies in the Kootenai Flats stretch of the Kootenai River, Idaho, between river kilometer (RKM) 229 and 232 and is roughly 130 kilometers downstream from Libby Dam.

Project Purpose:
The purpose of the Shorty’s Island/Meander Reach Section 1135 Ecosystem Restoration Project is to improve habitat for spawning and early life stage survival of the ESA listed Kootenai River White Sturgeon. Dramatic improvement in suitable spawning habitat of the Kootenai River, where the fish currently cue to spawn but suitable substrate for egg attachment and early life stage development are currently non-existent or extremely limited, is critical to the continued survival of wild Kootenai River White Sturgeon.

The Corps is cost-sharing the study with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

Recommended Plan:
The recommended plan focuses on providing suitable substrate to support spawning and early life stage survival in Meander Reach 1. Based on the alternatives evaluation two locations were selected and include the Myrtle Creek and Shorty’s South sites. The plan includes two types of substrate placement to create additional suitable spawning habitat for KRWS:  placement of suitable substrate on clay beds and placement of suitable substrate on clay shelves.

The recommended plan provides the physical attributes necessary to support successful spawning and survival of early life stages of the wild Kootenai River white sturgeon. The recommended plan is consistent with the more broadly based Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Project Master Plan, but is a stand-alone project. The proposed project will address the lack of suitable habitat for spawning and survival of the early life stages of KRWS, which will contribute towards the recovery of a sustainable natural population of the species. The plan would also incrementally contribute to enhanced food web and ecosystem productivity, increasing the forage base for native fish species.

Study Status:
The Detailed Project Report and Environmental Assessment is undergoing a 30-day public review period. The report includes, in brief: The existing conditions and need for a project on the Kootenai; an overview of the affected environment; the process that went through alternative evaluation and selection of the recommended plan; a 35% design of the recommended plan; and the environmental effects of the recommended plan.