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Darrington Ranger reports on flood damage, repairs

From left, Darrington resident Charles Kirkpatrick talks to Darrington Ranger District forester Samantha Chang about the upcoming commercial timber-thinning projects, Decline Thin and the Dan Creek Commercial Thin. -
From left, Darrington resident Charles Kirkpatrick talks to Darrington Ranger District forester Samantha Chang about the upcoming commercial timber-thinning projects, Decline Thin and the Dan Creek Commercial Thin.
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DARRINGTON Flood damage remains a top priority to the Darrington Ranger District which is still recovering from two floods within the past three years, and area residents from as far away as Snohomish wanted to know what Peter Forbes, the districts new ranger, plans to do about it.
Forbes has been the Darrington ranger since September of last year, but his first open house with the surrounding community was March 13. Forbes introduced himself to the public and joined fellow staff members of the Darrington Ranger District in informing visitors about the trails, roads and campgrounds that are still inaccessible due to damage from the November 2006 flood. They also reported the progress made in repairing the trails, roads and campgrounds damaged by an October 2003 flood.
Forbes and Dawn Erickson, trail specialist for the Darrington Ranger District, estimated that between 50 percent to 75 percent of the districts trails were washed out by flooding, but emphasized that final determinations will probably have to wait until the winter snows have melted. Forbes said flood damage repairs have been prioritized according to which sites are most visited and can be repaired soonest, but time, money and planning are also factors.
We have to look at long-term methods of fixing these sites, so were not just fixing them again in a couple of years, Forbes said. That wouldnt be a good use of public money. Were also managing repairs by need. Were not necessarily repairing all these roads.
The trails in the Verlot, Glacier Peak Wildness and Big Four mountain areas as still in need of repair. Erickson said the Big Four mountain areas have high priority, but approximately $400,000 is still needed.
Janice Ritter, a project manager for the Federal Highway Administration, elaborated on the road damage, noting that the Suiattle River Road alone is closed in four different sites where fill failure occurred, and one where the road was totally lost to the river. Ritter predicted that permanent repairs would be unlikely until 2008. She expected a contract to replace the White Chuck Bridge would be awarded this year, but declined to speculate on the costs of replacing Boundary Bridge.
Carol Gladsjo, public services manager for the Darrington Ranger District, noted that preliminary surveys of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a whole calculate approximately $3 million in damage to 27 trail sites, $500,000 in damage to 21 developed sites such as campgrounds, and $4.8 million in damage to more than 55 road sites and bridges.
Gladsjo informed visitors that the Gold Basin and Turlo campgrounds have been closed due to washouts, fill failures and road damage.
While a contract for repairs to the Suiattle River Road was awarded in August of last year and work started in October, it was put on hold after further flood damage in November. Gladsjo advised would-be visitors to check the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Web site, at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs, for updates on repairs and other conditions in the Darrington Ranger District.
The Darrington Ranger District is also working out the details of two upcoming commercial timber-thinning projects, Decline Thin and the Dan Creek Commercial Thin. District forester Samantha Chang estimated that Decline Thin could cover 250-400 acres, while the Dan Creek project is approximately 300 acres. Both commercial thins must undergo National Environmental Policy Act reviews, to evaluate the alternatives for how to conduct the thins, and Chang predicted that the NEPA review would be finished for Decline Thin before it started for Dan Creek. She said the timber yielded by Decline Thin could go on sale within the 2008 fiscal year.
Timber management serves multiple uses, Chang said. It helps the national forests contribute to the goals of sustaining local economies and providing a renewable resource.
Forbes praised volunteer groups such as Backcountry Horsemen for performing the maintenance that is occasionally beyond the districts resources, and asked the public to pitch in on behalf of the Darrington Ranger District.
We give them opportunities to volunteer, and we depend upon their work to keep the trails open, Forbes said. We hope people come to our forests, and we hope they leave with their questions answered.

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