Suiattle Road Environmental Assessment Released
Landslides in 2003 and 2006 have closed 11 miles of the Suiattle River Road (FR 26) to hikers and campers wishing to access the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Now more than 8 years after the road was damaged, an Environmental Assessment has been published, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.
There’s a lost generation of hikers who have missed out on expansive wildflower meadows on the slopes of Green Mountain, the immense old growth forest of Downey Creek and western access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Landslides resulting from floods in 2003 and 2006 have kept this road closed past milepost 12, effectively locking out hikers from some of the best trails in the Cascades.
Now, more than eight years after the first of two devastating floods ripped through the Suiattle watershed and severely damaged the road, an Environmental Assessment for the repair of the Suiattle River Road has been published. This kicks off a 30-day public comment period in accordance with the Forest Service’s policy on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which runs until April 20.
NEPA ensures that federal agencies appropriately consider the various laws designed to protect endangered species of flora, fauna and fish, the historical aspects of the project area and the human environment. Along with NEPA are other considerations, such as tribal rights and Forest Service policy on the provision of recreation opportunities to the public. The NEPA Process typically identifies a number of alternatives and proposes an action.
The Suiattle River Road EA entertains three options:
- Option A would keep the road closed to vehicle traffic;
- Option B would repair the road to its end at milepost 23.0;
- Option C would repair the road to milepost 20.2, the turn-off to FR 2680 and the Green Mountain trailhead.
Washington Trails Association supports repairing the Suiattle River Road and will be commenting on the document.
For those whose eyes glaze over at the thought of reading this massive tome, the Western Division of Federal Highways Administration and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are hosting an open house on March 29 at 6:00pm at the Firefighters Hall in Everett. Engineers and other staff will be on hand to answer questions about the proposed design of the road and a fish-friendly bridge at Downey Creek.
Public comments will be accepted now through April 20. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to:
Federal Highway Administration
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, WA 98661-3893
For background on this issue, please see WTA's blog post from May 19, 2011 about a lawsuit that precipitated this EA.