By Marcy Stamper
Five miles of roads in the Methow Valley could be opened to wheeled all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) if the Okanogan County commissioners approve a proposal to add the roads to 788 miles of roads around the county already open to the vehicles.
The roads under consideration are near Winthrop and Twisp. Near Winthrop, the proposal would allow ATVs to use East Chewuch Road, from Studhorse Road to Bear Creek Road (.7 miles) and Bear Creek Road from there to where it becomes gravel (1.7 miles). East Chewuch Road is already open to ATVs for about one-fourth of a mile from the town limits to Studhorse Road.
Near Twisp, the roads in question are the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road from the Twisp town limits to Balky Hill Road, a distance of about 2 miles. Upper Beaver Creek Road, heading north from the intersection with Balky Hill to the end of the pavement, a little more than half a mile, would also allow ATVs if approved.
Speed limits on these roads were reduced to 35 miles per hour (mph) in July after the North Central ATV Club petitioned the commissioners, saying that the lower speed limits were appropriate for safety concerns and ATV use. In adopting the ordinance, the commissioners cited the “health and safety of the public.”
State law allows local jurisdictions to open roads with speed limits up to 35 mph to wheeled ATVs.
The county’s planning director has determined that the changes would not have a significant or adverse environmental impact. Because the roads are already open to motor vehicles, the changes would not increase automobile odors, dust or water runoff, according to the environmental review. There will be no additional paving or alteration of road surfaces.
The number of additional vehicle trips is not expected to increase noise or wildlife collisions, according to the planning director’s assessment.
The environmental checklist notes that “the review of roads suitable for WATV use is an on-going process in part driven by citizen requests and the changing dynamics of the county road system in addition to changes in state and federal law.”
A hearing on the proposal will be set after comments on the environmental determination have been reviewed.
The county’s planning department is accepting comments on the environmental review of the proposal through Wed. (Oct. 28). For more information or to submit comments, contact senior planner Charlene Schumacher at (509) 422-7113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.