Washed-out road to be replaced

VERLOT – Four years ago, the swollen South Fork Stillaguamish River chewed up and swallowed a rural road near the Mountain Loop Highway.

Now, taxpayers are facing more than $2 million in repairs.

The Monte Cristo Grade Road was built on an old sandy railroad bed that was little match for the floods of October 2003.

“Everything went wrong within three days,” said Tyler Cummings, who owns a cabin near the river. “The worst flood in years just eroded the bank up there near the Blue Bridge and we lost several thousand feet of road.”

Since the road washed out, Cummings and other landowners in Verlot have had to hike in to their properties, he said.

The Monte Cristo Grade Road is scheduled for an estimated $2.2 million in repairs. A new 14-foot-wide road will be built on bedrock 300 feet south of the river.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pledged 75 percent of the costs, or $1.65 million. The county has capped its spending at $125,000, and residents voted last week to pitch in at least $150,000.

“This is a good solution,” County Councilman John Koster said.

Federal environmental review is required because the county is using federal funding and there are streams and wetlands in the area.

Cummings, a real estate agent living on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, said he’ll pay about $15,000 toward the road that will reconnect his cabin and land with civilization.

There’s no electricity service in the neighborhood. To compensate, his cabin gets power from solar-charged batteries strong enough to power a television and DVD player.

His father’s copper-colored 1968 Chevy pickup truck remains stranded on the other side of the washed-out road.

The river continues to scour its sandy banks and also threatens the smaller Pilchuck Mountain Road that leads to the county’s emergency radio towers. County crews plan maintenance work to shore up the mountain road.

Construction of the new Monte Cristo Grade Road might be done in 2009.

Cummings likes the plan, but was frustrated at how long it has taken.

“The longer they let it go, the more the bill becomes apparent to us,” Cummings said.

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

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