The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Amy Kober, American Rivers, (206) 898-3864

Bureau of Reclamation Releases Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Black Rock Dam Proposal

American Rivers responds with a call for less risky alternatives


The final federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Black Rock dam proposal was released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. According to the EIS, none of the alternatives evaluated for the Storage Study proved economically justifiable based on the costs and benefits measured. The cost of the Black Rock dam proposal is estimated to range from $4.95 to $7.73 billion, with a probable cost of $5.69 billion, plus annual operating and maintenance of $60.2 million.

On the issue of contaminated groundwater at Hanford, the EIS has determined that, while most seepage flows toward the Hanford site, the groundwater seepage from the reservoir could be intercepted before it reaches the western boundary of the site. Mitigation measures to intercept would eliminate nearly all impacts to groundwater conditions at the site and eliminate any impacts to the existing contaminants. However, the EIS itself acknowledges uncertainties associated with the effectiveness of the proposed measures.

American Rivers strongly supports the Washington Department of Ecology's work to explore less expensive, less environmentally risky alternatives to the Black Rock dam. This information will be finalized in March 2009 in a supplemental EIS and will cover increased irrigation and municipal efficiency, groundwater and aquifer water storage, habitat restoration, and fish passage at headwaters dams.

Michael Garrity, Washington conservation director for American Rivers made the following statement:

"The final EIS confirms that it makes no sense to build the Black Rock dam - it's too expensive, too risky, and there are too many better alternatives to meet the needs of fish, farms, and communities."

"It makes no sense to spend nearly $6 billion or more on a seismically vulnerable dam with a reservoir behind it that could speed the movement of radioactive groundwater beneath the Hanford nuclear reservation toward the Columbia River."

"It is unrealistic to think Black Rock could be both an effective water supply reservoir and a successful recreation facility. Using a reservoir for water supply requires taking enough water out to draw the level down significantly over the summer, reducing the reservoir's recreational values."

"We hope the state of Washington considers the comprehensive impacts of the Black Rock dam proposal before moving ahead with a project that will not sustain water supply for our future economy, environment and quality of life."

American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.