Salmon and other imperiled species would not be damaged by a proposed deepening of the Columbia River channel, federal scientists announced yesterday. Those findings — biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act — will enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the next steps in a $196 million project to deepen by about three feet 100 miles of shipping channel on the river between Vancouver, Wash., and Astoria, Ore. The National Marine Fisheries Service looked at the effects of deepening on Stellar sea lion and 12 salmon runs, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gauged the impact on Columbia whitetail deer, bald eagles, cutthroat trout, and bulltrout. Neither agency found any potential harm to any species. That was welcome news to river ports, which want to avoid being left behind as shipping companies turn to bigger vessels. Environmentalists, however, are contemplating legal action to stop the deepening, which they fear would increase the river’s salinity, thereby killing some plants and animals.