From the Winter 2020 Port of Hood River Newsletter:
The Port of Hood River is making strides toward its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), needed to advance replacement of the Hood River – White Salmon Bridge. The agency has completed the majority of technical reports and is currently working with tribal agencies to complete the Cultural Resource Reports. These critical documents will contribute to the Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS) projected to be released later this year. The Final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) is expected to be issued in mid-2021.
The Port has been advancing the project to complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which would position the project for future funding and construction, with funding provided by the state of Oregon.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal law signed by President Nixon in 1970, requires that government actions (primarily capital projects) thoroughly evaluate projects or activities expected to have significant environmental impacts and/or require federal funding.
To guide the project through the complexities of the NEPA process, the Port has secured the services of WSP USA to perform environmental engineering services and develop the Supplemental Draft EIS, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and ROD. The Port’s Bridge Replacement Project Director, Kevin Greenwood is overseeing the project.
As technical studies conclude, and the project moves firmly into the Environmental Compliance phase, project tasks are shifting.
What’s new on the project?
The Preliminary Navigation Determination has been issued by the US Coast Guard, which confirms horizontal and vertical clearances under the new bridge.
Identifying significant cultural resources (archaeological and structures) that may be affected by the project.
Continuing coordination with the US Bureau of Indian Affairs to address project impacts to lands administered by that agency.
Continuing consultation with the four Treaty Tribes on cultural resources, fishing activities, treaty rights, and other interests that relate to the project.
Engaging the National Marine Fisheries Service, Federal Highway Administration, Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and ODOT to discuss project impacts to threatened and endangered species and habitat, as well as potential conservation measures.
Preparing the Supplemental Draft EIS for policy compliance review by FHWA to serve as an addendum to the Draft EIS published in 2003.
The supplement will review critical habitat (a new protected resource since the original DEIS), investigate archeological resources, plus address recent developments in resources and policies that guide environmental impacts. The SDEIS should streamline the process for the FEIS.
Next steps will include: determining effects on significant cultural resources by the project, continuing to consult with Native American tribes and other federal agencies, preparing the draft cultural resources report, submitting the draft biological assessment for technical review by FHWA, ODOT and liaisons to the National Marine Fisheries Service, and integrating cultural and biological baseline conditions, impacts and mitigation into the Supplemental Draft EIS.
Once the Final EIS and ROD are received in mid-2021, bridge replacement work will focus more on where funding for design, permits, studies and construction could come from. The Port has accumulated over $2.5 million for bridge repair and replacement. Port representatives continue to lobby actively in Salem, Olympia, and Washington DC to educate, inform and prepare for future phases of the bridge. Near-completion of NEPA helps significantly in these efforts, however, it is estimated the entire bridge replacement project will take approximately 10-years.