The developing COVID-19 outbreak in Washington and Oregon has prompted federal officials to adjust two scheduled public comment meeting for the recently released Columbia River System Operation draft Environmental Impact Statement, the agencies announced today.
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration decided that the in-person public comment meetings planned for Seattle and Portland will not be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in those geographical areas and calls from local officials to limit public exposure.
"Public comments are important, but so is public safety," said Brig. Gen. D. Peter Helmlinger, commander of the Corps' Northwestern Division. "In order to achieve both, we added teleconference options for the public."
In all, six phone-in opportunities have been added to the ways the public can submit comments during the comment period.
The decision to shift the Seattle and Portland meetings to "phone only" is also consistent with calls from state and county elected leaders and health officials. Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown imposed restrictions on all gatherings larger than 250 people. These directly affected the Seattle and Portland venues.
Details on when and how to call into the phone sessions will be posted at www.crso.info. The agencies will continue to monitor the public health situation and make further adjustments as needed. The public is encouraged to monitor the website for any updates.
The draft EIS is available for public review online at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-II/public/action/eis/search (EPA's searchable EIS database) or www.crso.info.