Planning resumes for Suiattle River Road work

EVERETT — In the big timber heyday, loaded log trucks rumbled down the Suiattle River Road to Darrington and lumber mills throughout the county.

The road was once a path used by the people of what is now the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe and later by miners headed to their claims. By the 1940s, a solid Forest Service road extended nearly 20 miles to the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed Buck Creek Campground.

Many people in Snohomish County remember driving up Suiattle River Road, also known as Forest Road 26, to popular trailheads, including access to the Cascade Crest Trail and the Glacier Peak Wilderness, as well as hunting and fishing spots and campgrounds. For almost 10 years, however, relatively few have seen the uplands of the road. River flooding and resulting road washouts in 2003-04 and 2006-07 forced Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest officials to block off Suiattle River Road to motor vehicles at Milepost 6.

Road repairs were under way in 2011 when a lawsuit prompted the federal government to back out of plans to fix the road. Those who brought the lawsuit contended that the proposed repairs would destroy old trees and wildlife habitat and objected to the use of emergency highway repair funds for the project, since the last damaging flood was in 2007. Federal district court in Seattle dismissed the lawsuit in July, but the Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration embarked in another environmental assessment of the repair plans.

People have a chance to hear about the new environmental assessment, take a look at the repair plans and make their views known regarding the future of the road at public meeting set for Thursday evening in Everett.

Staff from Western Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration and staff from the Darrington District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest plan to be available for discussion and to answer questions.

The public has until April 20 to comment on the assessment. Comments can be emailed to wfl.suiattleriverroad@dot.gov or sent through the mail to Federal Highway Administration, 610 East Fifth St., Vancouver, WA 98661-3893.

•Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest officials also want to hear from people about a proposal to close 38 miles of roads to motorized traffic off U.S. 2 within about a five-mile radius from Skykomish.

Of the 38 miles of roads, only eight are drivable, with thick vegetation growing over most. Lack of federal funds has limited maintenance to roads, Forest Service officials said.

The South Fork Skykomish Roads environmental assessment outlines the protection of fish and wildlife habitat in the Skykomish Ranger District while providing public access to the forest.

The assessment is on the Forest Service website at tinyurl.com/SForkSkyRoads.

The public can comment until April 16 by calling 425-783-6039 or mailing District Ranger Joe Neal, Skykomish Ranger District, Attn: South Fork Skykomish Roads Project, 74920 N.E. Stevens Pass Highway, P.O. Box 305, Skykomish, Wash., 98288-0305.

Give input

Federal Highway Administration and Forest Service officials plan to host a public meeting regarding the environmental assessment of repairs to Suiattle River Road from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Everett Firefighters Hall, 2411 Hewitt Ave.

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