Forum Index > Stewardship > ONP Elwha Road Access EA:  Public Meeting 11-13-2019; Public Comments Till 12-18-2019
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Ancient Ambler
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PostTue Nov 12, 2019 3:29 pm 
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Olympic National Park's (ONP) Olympic Hot Springs Road (OHSR), also known as the Elwha Road, has been closed at ONP's north boundary since 2018 due to washouts about 1 mile upriver. This has closed vehicle access to some of ONP’s most popular trailheads and sites. In March 2019, ONP accepted public comments on three alternatives to address the closed Elwha Road.   ONP staff and others have considered those public comments and in November 2019 released a detailed Environmental Assessment (EA) and related documents on OHSR access options.

To help the public understand the options, ONP will hold a Public Meeting on November 13, 2019 in Port Angeles.  A similar public meeting in December 2018 provided important information that did not appear in the printed material that was released before the December 2018 public meeting.  I encourage anyone who can attend this meeting to do so.  I plan to be there and will report any news I hear in a follow-up post on this nwhikers.net thread.
 
Here are the details on the Public Meeting:

Public Meeting
November 13, 2019
5:30 to 7:00 PM
Elwha Klallam Heritage Center
401 East First Street
Port Angeles, WA 98362

Links to 11-04-2019 Online Elwha Road EA documents

A variety of EA documentation was posted online on November 4, 2019.  A one page synopsis of the EA issues can be read at

https://parkplanning.nps.gov/OHSREA.

The official 10-28-2019 EA and related documents are in pdf files located several layers below the foregoing URL, as is the comment submission button.   Direct access to the comment submission button and to the EA pdf files is provided by clicking on this URL:

https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=329&projectID=84555&documentID=99407

This brings up a page entitled “Olympic Hot Springs Road Long-Term Access Environmental Assessment (2019)”.  This page provides a concise 4 paragraph overview of the EA process.  Under the 4 paragraph overview, there is a section entitled “Document Content” and a list of 4 pdf files, which are the actual EA and related documents.  You will need Adobe reader installed on your device to view and read the EA. The 4 EA-related files are as follows:

“OHSR EA Public Review Letter.pdf” is a 10 page summary of the EA.

“10-28-19 OHS Road EA Final Public Review Version.pdf” is the actual 98 page EA document.

“10-30-19 OHS Road BA final USFWS NMFS.pdf” is the 57 page biological assessment and essential fish habitat analysis.

“The 10-26-19 OHS Road Draft Floodplains Draft SOF.pdf” is the 15 page draft floodplains statement of findings.

If you are not up to reading the entire 98 page EA, you might consider the 10 page Public Review Letter pdf mentioned above. 

To submit your comments on the EA online, look for the green “Comment Now” button on the left side of the same web page on which the 4 pdf EA files are listed.  Complete the comment form and then click on the “submit” button at the bottom of the form to send your comment to the National Park Service.   Comments are due by December 18, 2019.
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Ancient Ambler
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PostFri Nov 15, 2019 5:13 am 
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Peninsula Daily News article on 11-13-2019 Elwha Road Public Meeting


I attended the November 13, 2019 Olympic National Park (ONP) Public Meeting on the current Environmental Assessment (EA) alternatives to restore access to the Olympic Hot Springs Road (OHSR; also known as Elwha Road).

For those who have been worried that the washed-out OHSR might remain closed for decades like the Dosewallips Road, ONP demonstrated a strong preference for restoring vehicle access to the many ONP features accessed by the OHSR and labelled the bypass road option "The Preferred Alternative" to do so as promptly as possible.

This morning the Peninsula Daily News posted an excellent article on Wednesday's Public Meeting.  Before you submit your comments to ONP on the OHSR access alternatives, I urge you to read the Peninsula Daily News article:

https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/olympic-hot-springs-road-repairs-discussed/

Note that PDN gives you a few free online views of articles per month before all articles go behind a pay wall, so you might consider printing out the article for future free reference the first time you view it.

Later today I will add some of my observations on topics discussed in the Public Meeting but not addressed in the PDN article.

My observations on the 11-13-2019 OHSR EA Public Meeting

As a framework for understanding the Public Meeting discussion, please note that the Olympic Hot Springs Road (OHSR) Environmental Assessment (EA) considers 3 alternatives for the washout-closed road:  1)  No action; 2) rehab most of the road and reroute 1 mile of road so it’s outside the floodplain; and 3) rehab most of the road and  (in its present location within the floodplain) raise the road 15 feet and build a 1400 foot concrete bridge.  Please note that there are many more elements to each Alternative, which can only be appreciated by reading the EA.

The 11-15-2019  Peninsula Daily News article linked above covers many of the topics discussed at the 11-13-2019 Public Meeting.  Here are some of my observations from the 11-13-2018 Public Meeting.

1)  Kirk Loftsgaarden, project manager for the Federal Highway Administration and the primary speaker at the Public Meeting, noted how popular vehicle access via OHSR has been for the public and that researchers and ONP staff need OHSR access for scientific studies in the Elwha corridor and for maintenance of many park structures in the Elwha area.  This was consistent with the EA’s mention that OHSR access is important for continued monitoring and restoration of the Elwha River corridor after dam removal.  Mr. Loftsgaarden noted that the “No Action” option is actually more complicated than it would seem, entailing a “strategic retreat”, which is both complex and expensive, from existing ONP assets accessed via the OHSR.  The impression I got was that either of the two “action” alternatives is preferable to the “no action” alternative, all factors considered.

2)  Mr. Loftsgaarden discussed some of the factors considered in weighing the two “action alternatives”.   Alternative #1 (no-action) would cost $650,000.  Alternative #2 (reroute road out of floodplain) would cost  $8,300,000.  Alternative #3 (in floodplain: raise road 15 feet plus 1400 foot long concrete bridge) would cost $31,000,000.  Alternative #2 needs more geotech drilling to assess slope stability.  Alternative #2 would require removing some trees but is entirely in non-wilderness designated land and is out of the floodplain.  Alternative #2 will also involve placement of rock along the east bank of the east channel and diversion of water during construction.

Alternative #3 is in the floodplain and the 1400 foot concrete bridge would be supported by concrete piers which Mr. Loftsgaarden said could be damaged by large trees hurtling downstream in extreme flooding events. Mr. Loftgaarden said that Alternative #2 (reroute) would be the least vulnerable to future flood damage. He discussed the factor of “constructability”, noting that ONP crews could repair most future damage to the Alternative #2 reroute road quickly and inexpensively, whereas damage to Alternative #3’s concrete bridge would require outside contractors and be time-consuming and expensive.   Mr. Loftsgaarden also noted that removal of roadway that is in the floodplain (as would be accomplished by alternative #2) would best benefit the riparian habitat.  Note that restoring endangered fish habitat along the Elwha River was one of the goals of removing the dams at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Considering these and many other factors noted in the EA, ONP has deemed Alternative #2 (reroute road out of floodplain) to be “the Preferred Alternative).

3)  Mr. Loftsgaarden showed a powerpoint slide portraying the following timeline for Alternative #2 (reroute road out of floodplain) which would have construction completed by October 2023.  However, he cautioned that it is impossible to know how long it would take after a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to get all permits issued, though he did mention that it can take upwards of 2 years. Presumably, the entire process would also be delayed if significant impacts are found that preclude issuing a FONSI.

FONSI : March 2020   

Permits:   March 2021

Design complete: April 2021

Construction award:  June 2021

Begin construction:  July 2021

In water work (diversion):  early August 2021

Construction completed:  October 2023

4)  I asked Mr. Loftsgaarden what provisions have been made to allow hikers, bikers and equestriennes to cross the Elwha corridor to reach trail heads such as Whiskey Bend during the OHSR construction phase.  He responded that they are not planning to allow hikers, bikers or equestriennes to cross the OHSR area during construction and that construction will likely be in progress from about mid-March to Halloween.   Park employees at the meeting further stated that it would be too dangerous to allow hiker access through the corridor while construction was occurring. 

5)  Another attendee asked Mr. Loftsgaarden about previous geotech drilling that had shown extensive clay under the Alternative #2 (bypass) route and the implications of that for slope stability. Mr. Loftsgaarden indicated that additional geotech drilling will be done for further assessment and engineering and construction methods will be employed for stability.
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Gregory
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PostFri Nov 15, 2019 11:03 am 
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Drove across the 101 bridge a couple of weeks ago and got to thinking of 40 years of exploring the Elwa.Press trail in scouts in the eighties. Getting involved with the early push to remove the dams. The push back by folks that did not want the dams removed. I used to have VHS tape that I believe was pro dam removal, given to me by a hatchery worker at the Skokomish hatchery, documenting the seven-year 70+ lb chinook salmon. Finding nacked people in the hot springs on my honeymoon. Exploring and fishing the many rainbow laden Tribs. I could go on and on. I found myself wondering if removing the dams was a good thing. I guess if the wild fish return and flourish than yes but knowing what I do I do not think so. If they ever do open it back up I will be sure to take a drive for old time sake.
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Pyrites
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PostSun Nov 17, 2019 10:37 pm 
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A.A.

Thanks for the update.

Best.
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