Flood damage on park lands could take months to repair

October 27, 2003

Associated Press
King 5 News

OLYMPIA, WA- The road to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park could be closed for months due to flood damage from recent heavy rains.

Washouts have shut down roads near the Hoh, Bogachiel and Sol Duc rivers, world-famous winter steelhead streams.

State Route 410, from the north boundary of Mount Rainier National Park to Cayuse Pass, might be closed for weeks.

And that's just the beginning of a growing list of flood-damaged roads, campgrounds and trails on public lands in Western Washington, where two powerful storms hit in quick succession this month.

Photo by Brian Osborn
Repairs will cost millions of dollars, and the price tag is likely to increase over the rainy winter.

Officials at Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest say it will be months before all the damage is found and repaired.

"This was the first major storm," spokesman Ken Eldredge at Olympic National Forest told The Olympian newspaper. "The rivers will continue to eat at these areas all winter long."

Overflowing rivers wreaked havoc when heavy, warm rain fell on new snow early last week.

At Mount Rainier, almost 3 inches of warm rain fell on 10 inches of new snow between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21. Heavy rain -- as much as 15 inches in some locations -- swelled Olympic Peninsula rivers over, under and through roads.

Known damage on Olympic National Forest roads and trails will mean more than $1 million in repairs. And workers have not yet finished surveying 2,178 miles of roads and 270 miles of trails, Eldredge said.

For now, Forest Service crews are concentrating on finding road damage, setting up safety barricades and arranging for repairs, he said. Crews haven't examined most of the trails, and high-country damage probably won't be discovered until spring.

While much of the forest remains open, visitors should drive carefully and look for hazards, Eldredge said.

There was little damage to most state parks and state Department of Natural Resources recreation lands, though visitors may find damage in DNR areas such as the Capitol State Forest, spokeswoman Jane Chavey said.

Trees fell at some state parks, state parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter said.

At Mount Rainier National Park, crews are working to restore road service and find damage. Park officials were considering using large concrete blocks to try to prevent the White River from flowing over Route 410, said Eric Walkinshaw, a park engineer.

"Based on what we've seen out there, it's unlikely that section of 410 will open soon," he said.

Mount Rainier officials were doing an overview of damage from helicopters over the weekend, with further assessments and repair arrangements planned next week. Crews were rerouting a sewer line near Longmire to ensure that waste does not reach the Nisqually River, he said.

Damage estimates are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Walkinshaw said.

The Olympic National Forest also faces repair costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and perhaps more, Superintendent Bill Laitner said.

"This is what you get when you have 15 inches of warm rain in a matter of days," Laitner said.

Much of Olympic National Park remains open.

"You can easily go to Hurricane Ridge," Laitner said. "But the Hoh Rain Forest is closed."

The federal government will repair the storm damage.

"I hope to have some roads open in the next few weeks," he said. "I hope to have the majority of roads open by next summer -- it's my goal to open all roads by next summer. Whether we can do that, I don't know."


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