Lawsuit May Halt Repairs of Suiattle Road
Two organizations, the North Cascades Conservation Council and Pilchuck Audubon Society, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, are suing to halt work on the Suiattle River Road repair project.
Were you looking forward to a hike up Green Mountain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness this fall? Planning a backpack on the stunning Vista Creek Loop on the flanks of Glacier Peak? Well, you might want to have a Plan B.
The Suiattle River Road (FSR #26) has been impassable for years. After many seasons of environmental review and waiting for repair funding to come through, the Darrington Ranger District finally had plans to restore access to this important route later this summer. Now, these long-awaited repairs are in jeopardy.
Two organizations, the North Cascades Conservation Council and Pilchuck Audubon Society, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, are suing to halt work on the Suiattle River Road repair project. The litigants contend that repairs at mileposts 12.6 and 14.4 were not properly scoped for environmental impacts even though the Forest Service partially analyzed them in a 2006 Environmental Assessment (EA).
The Suiattle River Road sustained major storm damage in late 2003 and again in late 2006, so new storm damage occurred in these sections after the 2006 Environmental Assessment was complete.
This is not the first time the Suiattle Road repairs have drawn legal opposition. The litigants previously filed an appeal to the original 2006 EA, and that appeal was turned back by Forest Service Region 6, ruling in favor of the District. The litigants did not sue at that time. It's possible that one factor prompting this current lawsuit is that the project is now in the hands of the Federal Highways Administration, which is asking for an exemption from environmental review, known as a Categorical Exclusion.
While WTA is keenly aware of the critical importance of protecting the environment while preserving hiking opportunities, we have not seen that the issues raised in this lawsuit rise to the level of stopping this project. We're considering all of our options and are absolutely committed to maintaining hiker access to these special, irreplaceable hikes.