Dosewallips River Road Washout FEIS released
The Olympic National Forest has released a final EIS on re-routing the Dosewallips River Road.
After a long wait, Olympic National Forest has released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Dosewallips River Road. Its preferred alternative is to build a new road above the wash-out, but doing so is contingent upon acquiring $4.5 million for the construction.
Background on the Dosewallips River Road
The Dosewallips Road is one of only two access roads into Olympic National Park from the east (the other is the Staircase Entrance to the south). The Dosewallips River trail penetrates deep within Olympic National Park, providing a variety of day hikes as well as the ability to traverse the park by backpack.
In 2002, a storm-swollen Dosewallips River took out 200 feet of the road (later expanded to 310 feet) about five miles from road’s end. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) considered four alternatives:
- Alternative A: No action
- Alternative B: A .84 mile single lane upland re-route affecting 7.1 acres. Cost- $3 million.
- Alternative C: The same as B, except with retaining walls that would minimize tree-clearing and displace only 6.5 acres. Cost- $4.5 million
- Alternative F: A 700-foot bridge spanning the wash-out. Cost- $10 million.
Washington Trails Association has closely followed the Dosewallips Road issue for the past eight years. When the DEIS was released in 2008, WTA looked closely at the long-term viability of the alternatives on the table.
A bridge over the washed-out section, at a cost of nearly $10 million, was a long shot. The Forest Service, both publicly and privately, opined that they would likely never see funding at that level for the project.
The two re-route alternatives traversed slopes that were characterized as "steep, unstable and wet" by the Department of Transportation Western Federal Lands Division, which cowrote the DEIS. WTA would love to regain access to this river corridor, but with price tags between $3 - $4.5 million, we had grave misgivings about the expenditure of public resources on a road that would likely be subject to slides and sloughing due to slope instability. We had subsequent conversations with DOT specialists who worked on the project analysis, and those conversations confirmed our concerns. You can see our comments on the DEIS here.
Preferred Choice: Alternative C
In the FEIS, the Forest Service has chosen Alternative C as its proposed action, which reroutes the road while affecting slightly fewer acres. The Forest will not issue a Record of Decision until they have funding in place to implement the project. While WTA still has concerns about this road's long-term viability, we share in the excitement about once again hiking deep into Olympic National Park from the east side of the Olympics.
The FEIS is open to a very limited 30-day public comment period - it only pertains to an amendment to the Forest Service's requirement to preserve certain fungi. The recreational and economic aspects of this project are not within the scope of the comment period. Nonetheless, we encourage you to read the FEIS. It's interesting, especially if you have followed this issue in the past. And it's a project that will have a bearing on hikers for years to come.