The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, recently signed by US President Joe Biden, will authorize the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to proceed with planning a downstream fish passage facility at Howard A. Hanson Dam (HAHD) in King County. , Washington, and a wider and deeper waterway in Tacoma, Washington.
The bill authorizes $878.5 million in federal funding for the fish passage facility and $140 million for the Port of Tacoma Navigation Improvement Project. Legislation under the Water Resources and Development Act of 2022 (WRDA) includes authorities for USACE flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration activities.
The USACE clarified that WRDA strictly authorizes legislation and does not include funding. Funding for studies and projects authorized by the WRDA is provided separately through the annual appropriations process of the Energy and Water Development Act and sometimes through supplemental appropriations.
Tacoma Public Utilities has already completed an upstream fish passage installation. Once the USACE completes the downstream passage facility, both organizations will restore access to more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of high-quality salmon and steelhead river and tributary habitat upstream of the dam.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries officials issued a Biological Opinion (BiOp) on February 15, 2019, requiring the USACE to complete a downstream fish passage facility at HAHD no later than late 2030. USACE expects construction to begin in 2027.
The Howard A. Hanson Dam is an earthen dam on the Green River, 56 kilometers (35 mi) southeast of Seattle. The dam was completed by the USACE in 1962 and is a multipurpose project that includes flood risk reduction, fish conservation, water supply, and ecosystem restoration.
The main purpose of the dam is to reduce the risk of flooding in the highly developed Green River valley.
The WRDA also authorizes federal funding for the Port of Tacoma Navigation Improvement Project.
Port Blair Waterway is currently authorized at 51 feet (15.5 meters).
Deeper draft ships already call at waterway terminals, but face tidal delays and other transportation inefficiencies. The proposed project will deepen the canal to 57 feet (17.3 meters) so that larger ships can use the waterway.
In the past decade, ships calling at the Port of Tacoma have increased in size and draft at a dramatic rate. Draft requirements for larger vessels are deeper than 51 feet when fully loaded.
Corps officials expect to put about 2.8 million cubic yards (2.14 million cubic meters) of dredged material to beneficial use. Approximately 562,000 cubic yards (429,680 cubic meters) of dredged material will be placed at the Dredged Material Management Program (DMMP) Bay Open Water Disposal Site and 392,000 cubic yards (299,705 cubic meters ) more will be placed in a high floor installation.
The USACE is investigating siting options to utilize the remaining environmentally beneficial materials.