• Forest Service considers decommissioning 780 miles of road

    By: Joanna Small

    Updated:

    WASHINGTON - Hundreds of miles of forest roads may soon no longer exist. 

    The Forest Service says it can't afford to maintain nearly 800 miles of road in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.           

    That could have a life-altering impact on people like Rich White. 

    We first met him three weeks ago; at that time it had been nearly six weeks since he had been home.

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    Floodwaters washed the Forest Service-maintained bridge to his house in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest—the only bridge to his house—out, and the Forest Service couldn't afford to fix it.

    We met Rich White again Wednesday.

    "Not really a whole lot changed,” he told us, standing in a motel parking lot.

    It's now been nine weeks since he's been home; he’s living in a motel and soon a trailer, and the Forest Service still can't afford to fix his road.

    But the decommissioning plan may change that.

    "We have a lot of roads that are left over from a more robust timber industry that are no longer needed," explained Tracy O’Toole with the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

    The Forest Service released a plan to decommission or reduce maintenance on 780 miles of those roads so other, more heavily used roads can be kept up to snuff. 

    It would cost $82 million to catch up on the backlog of deferred maintenance now, and an additional nearly $10 million a year if no roads are decommissioned.

    The idea is to decommission in phases—first looking at roads around the Upper Nooksack in the Mount Baker District and then roads in the south end of the forest by the 410 corridor.

    “If they don't need them there's no sense to maintain them," White told us.

    This could be very good news for him; the Forest Service says his road is a high vehicle clearance road—and White needs some good news right now.

    "Pretty depressed most of the time, it's really bad,” he concluded of his situation.

    The Forest Service will be having two public meetings near those areas, one in Bellingham in February and the other in Enumclaw in April. 

    No decisions have been made—this is just a guide.

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