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It ain't easy

| May 12, 2006 12:00 AM

I think I mentioned this before but it doesn't hurt to repeat it: Managing Libby Dam ain't easy.

It goes without saying that nobody likes the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does it but then nobody has a better idea, or perhaps clue, how to go about it.

The Corps has to be concerned about refilling the reservoir because of informal recreation commitments all the way around its nearly 200 miles of shoreline. And there's the concerns about the dust problem near Rexford, floating marinas way up near the border and Canadian property owners who bought beachfront property and would like to at least see the water. Looking below the dam, we have concerns about the height of the river in terms of swimming, boating and fishing. We have endangered bull trout, burbot, sturgeon and farther downstream the salmon.

The project managers have to worry about filling too fast, filling too slow and spilling. And, of course, Libby Dam produces about a half a billion dollars in power each year.

It really is an amazing balancing act, and the Corps is blamed for the decisions of the fish managers, the Bonneville Power Administration.

Recently there was a lot of talk about suing the Corps over the proposed sturgeon spill. But the sturgeon recovery committee, a group of federal agency representatives along with state and tribal reps, came up with an alternative to avoid spill and get the Corps off the hook.

It can be a little unnerving to sit in a meeting with the Corps, typically a group of hydrologists, engineers and biologists, and sitting in the mix is an agency lawyer. Such is the state of things. — Roger Morris