By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
DARRINGTON — The deadline is fast approaching for anyone who wants to comment on proposed repairs to Suiattle River Road in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
The Federal Highway Administration has released its amended environmental assessment of the repair project. The comment period closes Sept. 10.
The amended report follows feedback given to the state in March, seeking Suiattle River Road be reopened to its original end point.
The road, also known as Forest Road 26, was hit by river flooding and washouts in the mid-2000s, forcing officials to block it off to motor vehicles at mile post 12.
Road repairs were under way in 2011 when a lawsuit with concerns about wildlife and old trees prompted the federal government to back out of plans to fix the 23-mile-long road and begin another environmental assessment of its slated repairs.
The Western Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration this spring asked people to pick between three options for the future of Suiattle River Road: One would leave the road closed to cars and trucks; another would repair the road only part way to the junction with the Green Mountain trailhead; the last would repair and reopen the road all the way to the end at Sulphur Creek.
Denise Steele, an environmental protection specialist with the Western Federal Lands Highway Division, said that of the more than 400 people who commented earlier this year, about 86 percent want the road open all the way.
Only about 2 percent said they want the road closure left as is. About 5 percent want the road reopened just to the Green Mountain Trail and another 4 percent want some sort of combination of repairs to the road. Another 3 percent didn’t vote on the options, Steele said.
The federal government released the amended assessment in part so that people can read responses made to the earlier comments, she said.
“We want to keep the public involved and allow them to see what has occurred since the last comment period,” Steele said.
Copies of the amended assessment also are available for review at the Darrington Ranger Station, 1405 Emens Ave. N., Everett Public Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave., and Darrington Library, 1005 Cascade St.
Comments can be emailed to Steele at email@example.com or mailed to Federal Highway Administration, ATTN: Denise Steele, 610 E. Fifth St., Vancouver, WA 98661-3893.
Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes expects the Federal Highway Administration to make a decision about the road in the next few months.
The road is the last of the western access points to Glacier Peak Wilderness. Having the road repaired means restoring easier access to campgrounds such as the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed Buck Creek Campground, as well the wilderness back country and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
If a repair alternative is chosen, construction on the road would not begin until 2013, Forbes said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.