By Ann McCreary

A draft decision on the Chewuch Transportation Plan was issued this month by Mike Liu, Methow District Ranger.

The plan guides management of 394 miles of road on U.S. Forest Service land in the Chewuch River drainage, an area encompassing 316,000 acres of forest system land.

The ranger’s decision opens up an objection period for people who have previously commented on the plan.

The current road network causes adverse environmental impacts and costs more to maintain than the Methow district receives for road maintenance, according to the Forest Service.

The Chewuch Transportation Plan aims to address those issues by reducing environmental impacts, reducing road maintenance costs, and maintaining access for safe public and administrative use.

It includes plans to decrease maintenance of some roads to reduce costs, close and decommission some roads, and replace some roads in riparian areas.

After evaluating two alternatives detailed in an environmental assessment, Liu said he selected a modified version of Alternative 1.

That alternative calls for decommissioning 91.7 miles of roads, converting 34 miles of roads to administrative use only, lowering maintenance levels for two roads, and constructing .4 miles of new road to replace a road in a riparian area.

Liu decided against the proposed decommissioning of Forest Service Road 5010000 at the Twentymile ford stream crossing in order to retain the emergency egress route for recreational residences along the east side of the Chewuch River.

Decommissioning had been suggested because the road crossing on the creek impacts salmon spawning habitat. Liu said different solutions for the road would be explored such as relocating the road, building a bridge or improving aquatic habitat at the crossing to improve fish passage.

Liu decided to downgrade the maintenance of Falls Creek Road, a popular road biking route, to significantly cut maintenance costs.

“I have decided to continue patching the road until the surface deterioration becomes too costly to patch,” Liu said. At that point the Forest Service will convert the pavement to a surface that can be graded.

“This management of the road may happen in sections, over time and will accommodate use by road bikes until it is converted to a gradable surface,” Liu said.

There are currently about 228 miles of open roads in the planning area. The transportation plan cuts that to about 173 miles, a 24 percent reduction in open roads.   

More information on the plan, including the Final Environmental Assessment and Draft Decision Notice are on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=37194.

Objections can be filed by people who have previously commented up to 45 days from the official legal notice publication date, which was May 6.

For more information contact Gene Shull at the Methow Valley Ranger District, 996-4000.