Forum Index > Public Lands Stewardship > At Monte Cristo ghost town, a big fight over a short road
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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostTue Jul 06, 2021 2:33 pm 
UPDATE: new document. (sorry for the probable fixation with this road; I read the RMA at great detail several years ago for an article I wrote on the project, and it's all coming back to me, though the thick muddle of muck in my brain.

The actual Removal Action Memorandum. Page 24 of the PDF (pg 21 of the RMA) states, " A segment of the access route will be located within the Glacier Peak Inventoried Roadless Area”.

I don't know if any of the CERCLA road was built within the Roadless Area, but on paper, at the beginning of the project, a portion was to be within the Roadless Area. As the map in the previous post shows, I don't think it could be avoided at one point.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Randito
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PostTue Jul 06, 2021 3:36 pm 
Given that the need for monitoring for the CERCLA/Superfund clean up project will be at least another decade or two and the road in question wasn't constructed with durability in mind -- my bet is issue of actively deconstructing the road will be purely academic.    I think the permissive "key loaner" program allowing pretty much anyone motorized access to the road is a poor idea.    What will be interesting to see is what happens when the river takes out a section of the CERCLA road before the requirement for monitoring has expired.

I suspect the monitoring activities could be accomplished without a vehicle passable road,  but the historical preservation efforts not so much.

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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Jul 07, 2021 9:27 am 
randito, I think it's the opposite. monitoring is done by contracted scientists, engineers, and interns or state  Ecology staff, all who are wanting to get in and out of there (they're on the timeclock for their jobs) and may have specialized equipment (though more likely just taking samples....?). the time it takes to walk in, walk to the various monitoring sites, and walk out is a giant time suck to people on the clock. Plus the road is approved to be used by them until the monitoring period is over.

Re history maintenance; there's not much equipment needed, at least from what I have seen. Those shacks at the large field have always been in terrible condition; if they were to receive heavy work, they'd have done it by now. They're not open to the public anyway. However, some of the red tape in getting them worked on is obtaining permissions from MBS historian, who is part time at best, and MBS is really big. and at times there is no historian available. just getting the steps to the cabins replaced, I think took a couple of years due to the limited availability of the historian.

Remining shacks at the townsite are either privately owned and not subject to maintenance by MCPA or haven't been maintained ever, so why expect it in the future. the privately owned shacks have KEEP OUT signs nailed to them and are full of moldly mattresses, broken formica countertops (not old), and trash (not old) - but that's their business, not MCPA's or ours.

The Keyes Memorial Tree is dead, and the fence around it rotted and broken. If anything would have been worthy to maintain, that would be it; yet it wasn't  >>> I don't know if it's on private land or public, so this may very well not be something mCPA could have worked on.

One of those red cabins is used by the MCPA host to stay in during the weekend. That person can walk in with backpacking gear. Not always convenient for sure, due to weather, the host's abilities. But to rebuild a road for that program with public funds (because I do think it would need to be rebuilt at least in part)....not sure that would fly.

The Back Country Horsemen, I bet, would help carry equipment in, if they wanted it. That's extra coordination for sure; but it's worth a shot at developing a relationship with them.

What MCPA did/does well was/is research. So much of what we know is from their work.

And without their work with the CERCLA people; we might not have (probably would not have), anything at all. MCPA id'd the railroad switchback for preservation, the arasta contour, the Rock, and various sites in town and below the concentrator. And I understand Cal went back east several times to search records in libraries there to learn about the people and industry at Monte Cristo. This was invaluable and on his own time. Ever been to the museum at Verlot? Really nice stuff!

I'm not opposed to continued use of the road by MCPA members, however (not that anyone cares what I think). Just not sure I want public funds to be used for the road if they can't maintain it.  Aside from the wetland it encroaches on, and the undersized culverts, I don't care about the road one way or another. That it's too steep and the curves too sharp - I'll never drive it.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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JVesquire
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PostThu Jul 08, 2021 11:23 am 
It's definitely crossing into a roadless area. The Secretary of Ag had to issue an exemption to allow the CERCLA road to get built for that reason.

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Randito
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PostThu Jul 08, 2021 12:00 pm 
Kim Brown wrote:
randito, I think it's the opposite. monitoring is done by contracted scientists, engineers, and interns or state  Ecology staff, all who are wanting to get in and out of there (they're on the timeclock for their jobs) and may have specialized equipment (though more likely just taking samples....?). the time it takes to walk in, walk to the various monitoring sites, and walk out is a giant time suck to people on the clock. Plus the road is approved to be used by them until the monitoring period is over.

I think you missed an aspect of my speculation -- what would happen if the temporary road was made impassable by natural events.    The SuperFund clean up activities certainly required a road to bring in heavy equipment needed to collect mining waste to a less harmful location.   The monitoring activities don't have the same heavy equipment requirement.   Obviously if the scientists need to travel by foot or bicycle this will require more time than if they are able to drive in a car -- but the difference in time requirements aren't as onerous as they would be for the initial clean up activities.

Whether the current SuperFund authorization would permit reconstructing the road within the roadless boundry is one issue to consider -- whether there would be funding for reconstruction is another.

The historical preservation activities that the road supports, I think are "limpits" on the SuperFund cleanup -- in that a waiver for the roadless area rules for a road to support historical preservation I don't believe could be granted under existing law -- believe congress would need to pass specific legislation.  (Which they could possibly do as they did in the Green Mountain Lookout case).

I think efforts to get the road removed are misguided -- but I do think keeping vehicle access to the road quite limited is the correct policy.

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George Winters
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George Winters
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PostFri Jul 16, 2021 2:29 pm 
Kim Brown wrote:
The CERCLA road may indeed be 99.9% (or more) out of the Glacier Peak Roadless Area, and it is likely a tiny portion does go within the Roadless Area

A couple of points of clarification and speculation.  I used Kim's link to the pdf of the MBS Roadless map and put some of that into Google Earth along with my personal old gps track taken walking the CERCLA road.  I estimate that at least a mile of the approximatly three mile road is very thoroughly in the designated Roadless area.  It should be emphasized for clarity that designated Roadless is an entirely different act than the Wilderness act, and different rules.  But with 33% of the road in Roadless area, that is going to complicate what the Forest Service can do.

I attended a couple of presentations in Darrington where public questions were addressed before the CERCLA process started building the road.  I also saw some maps for the originally proposed route, probably at one of those meetings.  The original plan did not go into the wetland.

The planners did not designate enough money to do the road work, so corners were cut instead of trees.  At some point near the end of their money and time constraints, the road builders got permission to drop into wetland in order to save money (trees? I doubt that).  This was all before the cleanup started.

From my very limited view on the ground, it seemed the cleanup process was much more careful and thorough than the road building process, and I suspect the cleanup was done by different contractors and so on.

The cleanup was prompted by threat of lawsuit about leaving these old mine sites spewing probable toxins.  In order to prevent a lawsuit and be proactive with providentially available money, the Forest Service managers used CERCLA to speed up and smooth out the response.  Now the Forest Service management is worried about getting sued over the road.

So a mine gets built by people who never have to worry about the long term prospects.  Then a road gets built trying to fix that mistake, but the road is built with the same lack of looking at the long term prospects and now a new problem arises.

One way to look at this is "Follow the money".  Both historically and in the present, the money is made by contractors, suppliers, lawyers, speculators.  No one, either past or present, has the money to sustain a road on either side of that valley.

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When you are "miles from nowhere" you must have finally arrived at somewhere.
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Frango
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Frango
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PostSat Jul 31, 2021 3:56 pm 
Schroder wrote:
(The WTA, however, did speak out against keeping the CERCLA road open, even as a trail, saying it weakened the roadless rule and calling it a “low quality hiking experience.”)

Quite frankly, I think the WTA has a case of cranio-rectal insertion in this case. Took the dogs out that way today. Walked out through the forest on the CERCLA road - old cedars and fir galore, birds, squirrels, the sound of the river in the background etc. This was the “low quality experience” where I saw not one other soul, vs the (I guess) “high quality experience” with at LEAST 100 vehicles worth of traffic all headed to the usual route.  Based on this, I can only assume that Lake 22 is of the highest quality experience?!  rolleyes.gif

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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostMon Aug 02, 2021 10:08 pm 
Never cared for the county road walk to Monte Cristo. I walked the CERCLA road only once but was there to check out the road construction and don't remember the landscape. But it wouldn't take much  to be better than the county road.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.

Frango
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