By Ann McCreary
Highway 153 remains closed south of Benson Creek while state transportation officials try to reach agreement with a landowner in order to repair damage caused by flooding and mudslides last month.
Work continues on other damaged sections of Highway 153 at Leecher Creek and Canyon Creek, where larger culverts are being installed to handle heavy runoff predicted in the wake of the Carlton Complex Fire.
Repair of Highway 20 on the way to Loup Loup Pass is also continuing, with two sections of the highway needing realignment to move the road away from Frazer Creek, which changed course during the Aug. 21 downpour and washed out sections of the road.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is repairing the roads under a 30-day emergency contract through the Federal Highway Administration.
Work on the damaged section at Benson Creek has been on hold since Patrick Fitzgerald, whose home is just north of the washout, withdrew permission for crews to enter his property to conduct the repair work.
Fitzgerald said he disagrees with the design for the repair developed by WSDOT engineers, who plan to replace a 3-foot-diameter pipe that washed out with an 8-foot-diameter pipe.
Fitzgerald, a logger, said he doesn’t think that pipe would withstand future runoff and debris and “it’s going to blow out my way — my main concern is my house.” He wants WSDOT to install an open arch-type culvert instead.
WSDOT needs to acquire a small parcel — about 450 square feet — of Fitzgerald’s land to place the 8-foot pipe, but Fitzgerald has been unwilling to sell.
Agreements are in place with about 20 other people whose properties are impacted by the repair work on Highways 153 and 20, said Kevin Waligorski, WSDOT project engineer.
Waligorski said the arch-style culvert that Fitzgerald advocates is used to provide fish passage “and Benson Creek is not listed as a fish-bearing stream.”
It is a more expensive structure and “the Federal Highway Administration would not fund that sort of improvement,” he said.
The federal emergency funding only permits roads to be restored to the condition they were in prior to the washouts, Waligorski said. He said the design developed by WSDOT plans for a 100-year-storm event.
“At some point if this continues to drag on, we’re looking at a temporary fix,” Waligorski said.
Motorists heading south on Highway 153 have been required to make a 13-mile detour on the Twisp-Carlton Road since the highway has been closed.