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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pete Jackson calls for completion of the Park on

Pete Jackson calls for completion of the Park, on We couldn't agree more!

Completing the North Cascades National Park would be a gift for our future

By Peter Jackson
These feel like the worst of times, with a stymied economy and basement-level confidence in the nation's political class. All of us ache for something -- anything -- to restore a sense of hope and national purpose.

For lawmakers, Priority One must be jobs and the federal budget. Along the way, however, we also need to address the problem, real or perceived, of impoverished leadership.

There is an opportunity, however minor in the broader scheme of life, to demonstrate farsightedness and bipartisanship. It's called the American Alps Legacy Project, and it centers on our own back yard: the North Cascades National Park.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sheepherder encounters new wolf pack near Blewett Pass

See the King5 website for video:

Sheepherder encounters new wolf pack near Blewett Pass

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 6:47 PM
Updated Tuesday, Sep 13 at 10:42 PM 

BLEWETT PASS, Wash. - You would think it would be easy to find 1,500 sheep grazing near a Forest Service road above Blewett Pass. It's not. We had to wait for sheepherder Heraclio De la Cruz to lead us two miles down a steep mountainside to find the herd.
They were peacefully grazing away there under the supervision of De la Cruz and his half dozen herding and guard dogs.
It was a different scene two weeks ago when De la Cruz's lunch break was interrupted by the howls of a herd dog. He dropped his lunch and, along with the rest of the dogs went to investigate. De la Cruz was about to become one of the first people in the state to have a confrontation with a pack of wolves.
"They were bigger than coyotes," said De la Cruz, who said one of his herd dogs, Gabby, got in between two of the four wolves and was being attacked. De la Cruz fired a warning shot and the wolves raced off.
State Fish and Wildlife biologists investigated and say, based on De la Cruz's eyewitness account and the injuries to Gabby, they have no doubt they had encountered the newly formed Teanaway wolf pack. They suspect the wolves were drawn to the herd area by the scent of a sheep recently killed by a cougar.
Now what?
De la Cruz's boss, Mark Martinez, says he doesn't know what to expect. Martinez's family has been grazing sheep on Forest Service land in Central Washington for three generations. They are the last of the big operators and they're worried.
"There's always been challenges," said Martinez, "but I don't know if this will be the final challenge that we have to throw our arms up in the air and walk away from it while we still can."
The state is in the process of finalizing a recovery plan for the state's wolves that biologists say migrated in from Canada, Idaho and Montana. The plan will include compensation for ranchers who lose livestock to wolves and if the wolf numbers improve to a stable level, there would be limited hunting and other population control measures allowed. The sticking points are a funding source for the compensation and disputes over how many wolves it would take to form a stabilized population.
Wilderness groups have repeatedly said they support compensation for ranchers. And they respect ranchers' rights to protect their cattle, horse and sheep herds but want them to wait until the wolves reach a healthy population.
The highly anticipated plan is due in December.
Gabby survived her wounds and will be back on the job soon, helping move the sheep down to the winter grazing grounds.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dosewallips River Road: a case for going it afoot -From The Mountaineer

Dosewallips River Road: a case for going it afoot
By Tim McNulty


The Dosewallips River is one of the most ecologically rich and strikingly beautiful natural areas in the Northwest, and a prime recreation destination. When the Dosewallips River Road washed out in the winter of 2002, I expected an easy and timely repair. The road provided motorized access to the Elkhorn campground in Olympic National Forest, the popular Dosewallips campground in Olympic National Park, and the Dosewallips and Constance Lake trailheads. But it soon became obvious that that the usual riprap-and-fill approach to road repair wouldn’t work here. The river now surges through the site of the old road bed, and the fresh cutbank provides an important source of spawning gravel for threatened chinook salmon.

As an alternative, the Forest Service surveyed a nearly mile-long route up and over the washout. That seemed logical. But when I hiked the proposed route for the new road, I was shocked. The route climbed an excessively steep side-hill (think roots for hand-holds) then plowed through one of the most beautiful old-growth forest stands I’ve seen in the east Olympics. Douglas firs and cedars up to six feet in diameter covered a mountain slope ribboned with streams. The survey markers and ribbons staked through the grove left me in stunned disbelief. The Forest Service and the National Park Service insist that restoring motor-vehicle access to upstream campgrounds and trailheads is their highest priority. In doing so, the agencies forego a rare recreational opportunity. They can easily convert the old road above the washout to an all-season, hiking, biking and equestrian trail along a spectacular wilderness river.

In the years since the washout, thousands have rediscovered the middle Dosewallips valley. The upper road attracts day hikers, bikers, backpackers and equestrians of all ages. Families with small children looking for a “starter” backpacking experience find Elkhorn campground a one-of-a-kind destination, just an easy mile from the car. Cyclists pedal modest grades through a forested river valley. Day hikers enjoy intimate encounters with thundering Dosewallips Falls that are impossible from behind the wheel. And backpackers find Dosewallips campground one of the most beautiful riverside camps in the east Olympics—without the noise, dust and pollution of passing cars.

The Forest Service and the National Park Service have a singular opportunity to look at future recreational uses for the whole Dosewallips valley: trail conversion, new trailhead, parking and stock-loading facilities, perhaps an all-accessible loop trail and downstream campground. But as of September 2010, the Forest Service is willing to commit up to $3.96 million strictly to build a road for motorized use. All else is off the table. At a time when fossil fuels are becoming scarce and recreational demands are changing, the Forest Service seems stuck in its road-building past.

The Dosewallips valley has something for everyone. But rather than taking my word for it, visit the Dosewallips yourself. Walk the upper road and enjoy a beautiful, all-season hike in a stunning wilderness valley. Then decide what’s right for the Dosewallips.

Tim McNulty is a writer and author of “Olympic National Park: A Natural History.” He is also vice president of Olympic Park Associates.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Officials hold Darrington open house to discuss the Suiattle River Road

Everett Herald - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Officials hold Darrington open house to discuss the Suiattle River Road
An open house will discuss proposals to repair Suiattle River Road
By Gale Fiege, Herald Writer

DARRINGTON -- People with concerns about forest road projects and access into the Darrington District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are encouraged to attend an open house Thursday.

Federal Highway Administration staff plan to be there to talk about proposed repairs to the once popular flood-damaged Suiattle River Road, also known as Forest Service Road No. 26.

The 23-mile-long Suiattle River Road begins near Darrington, and heads east along the north side of the Suiattle River. The upper end of the road has been closed since storms caused major damage in 2003, 2006 and 2007. Washouts on the road have made it difficult for most people in Snohomish County to hike into the Glacier Peak Wilderness and get to the Pacific Crest Trail.

In the face of a lawsuit filed in April, the federal government backed out of plans to repair the road this summer. The Pilchuck Audubon Society, the North Cascades Conservation Council and Lynnwood engineer and hiker Bill Lider brought the lawsuit. They contended that the proposed repairs were not subject to a proper environmental assessment and would destroy old trees that are home to the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, as well as damage parts of the Suiattle River, which has a scenic river designation with protection for salmon. Lider also objected to the use of emergency highway repair funds for the project, since the last damaging flood was in 2007.
Washington Trails Association advocacy director Jonathan Guzzo said he thought the previous environmental assessment for the road repair project was good enough, calling it "a significant and sufficient assessment." The lawsuit and the delay of repairs to Suiattle River Road 26 made a lot of hikers upset, Guzzo said.

The Darrington Area Business Association recently formed a committee of people willing to volunteer their time to make sure it's easier to get into campgrounds and trails in the forest.

"It is our position that, as industrial uses of the local forest have declined, we should be seeing an increase in recreational use as a means to help maintain the local economy through tourism," association President Nels Rasmussen said. "However, fewer miles of roads, fewer campgrounds, and trails becoming less accessible to families limits tourism possibilities which further squeezes the local economy."

In withdrawing its plans for road repairs this summer, Federal Highway Administration officials promised additional environmental analysis. A new assessment is scheduled for release later this year with a 30-day public comment period, said Renee Bodine, spokeswoman for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Federal High Administration and U.S. Forest Service officials propose repairing flood-damaged sites along Suiattle River Road during the summers of 2012 through 2014, with the hope of reopening access to trailheads, wilderness, campgrounds, hunting, fishing, gathering and tribal lands, said Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes.

The Suiattle River Road was established in the early 1900s by miners packing out to work their claims. By the 1930s, the road extended nearly 20 miles to the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed Buck Creek Campground. In the big timber heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, the road was used heavily by logging trucks.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

Open house in Darrington

An open house regarding roads into the national forest is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, at the Darrington District Ranger Station of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 1405 Emens Ave. N., on Highway 530 just outside of Darrington.

For more information about the open house, call the Darrington Ranger District at 360-436-1155 or go to

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holden mine remediation situation

I passed through Holden Village on my way to and from Image Lake a couple of weeks ago, and I checked-in with their manager of public works, Chris Shultz, who was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to update me on the remediation project.

Things are well under way. Alternative 14 is the actionable alternative, meaning during the 2 years of 2013 and 2014 Holden Village will only house remediation workers and staff, no guests. There will be "work camps" held at Holden during that time to the rebuild the power and water infrastructure, taking advantage of the two summers without guests. These improvements will include a new water main, a "purple pipe" for fire protection, and burying the power lines.

The soccer field next to the school has been transformed into a parking area for project vehicles and portable offices. A very large piece of equipment on tracks 10 feet apart had gone through the Village earlier the day we went through, requiring power lines to be raised to let it pass. Workers were seen cutting trees along the road, walking about the Village in their orange vests, and waiting by the Lucerne dock for the boat.

Holden Village infrastructure improvements are
ongoing, and some very big ones are planned
along with the mine remediation. 

They anticipate having a new hydro plant once the project is done, as a much greater amount of power will be needed for water treatment after the 2 year remediation phase, and so a whole new "run of the river" hydro facility will be built along Railroad Creek itself, below the village, supplanting the antique hydro system on Copper Creek that runs the Village now.

Cutting has begun and will be extensive.

A logging team is on site now, and extensive tree removal will be necessary for the remediation, for several aspects:
  • 27 turnouts will be added to the road to allow heavy equipment to move in both directions during the two summers.
  • Railroad Creek itself is planned to be relocated several feet toward the Village, so as to bypass the tailings. The current creek bed will then be a collection trench for water to be treated.
  • The water treatment area below the lower tailings pile will have to be cleared.
  • A new "bypass" road will be built, including a new bridge crossing Railroad Creek below the lower tailings, allowing access to the south side of the creek where the remediation work will be done without going directly through the Village to the only bridge currently in place above the Village.
Holden Village will have the option to purchase the timber being cut at a reduced rate.

  Clearcutting along the Railroad Creek road is in progress.

 A talings pile, laced with cyanide and acid-forming iron sulfides[1], waits for remediation.

One issue of concern is simply the source of all the crushed rock needed to build the new retaining walls, caps, and treatment facilities. Bringing all that material in from down-lake has been ruled out as too expensive, so a series of new quarries and gravel pits will be dug around Holden, many right by the access road, ironically because of the current Roadless Area boundary just a short way from the road on the north side of the valley.

The land along the Railroad Creek road, from the road northward to the Roadless Area boundary, can be dug-up for crushed rock without changing the administrative Roadless Area boundary, so rather than "hide" the quarries back behind a screen of trees, they will be in full view of all the visitors. Perhaps that's for the better, if it draws attention to the impacts of trying to remediate a disaster like this -- hiding the impacts might make the project appear more benign than it is. The only real serious loss will be some old cedars along the creek below the Village, the rest of the trees slated to be cut are not so large or unique for the area.

 A hundred million dollars made -- and what's left 
for future generations?

In the "Portal Museum" of mining artifacts, now housed in the Village Center, I saw a sign totaling the value of all the minerals extracted during the mining -- $100,000,000. The sign didn't say in what year's dollars that valuation was made. How much the remediation will cost can only be estimated. According to Chris, it's all coming from the successor to the company that did the mining, Rio Tinto (meaning "colored river" - from a river in Spain that has run red from acid mine drainage since antiquity from... you guessed it... copper mining).

After two years of work, starting in 2015, the water quality downstream and the works in place to retain the tailings will be monitored for five years, then any additional work required will take place in 2020. This compromise was negotiated partly to reduce the impact on the Holden Village operation. The good news is that after that 5 year evaluation period, Rio Tinto will not be off the hook! If more work is needed, they will continue to be liable until standards for air and water quality are met, Chris said.

We expect to be observing the remediation process and monitoring. Any N3C members who go through Holden in the coming years are invited file their reports to ncccinfo @

And I noticed near that hundred-million-dollar sign, in a glass display case, there's a copy of none other than an old edition of The Wild Cascades from the 60s! NCCC has been advocating for the best outcome for the environment around Holden for quite some time, it seems.

HIKERS NOTE that the Copper Basin and upper end of the Railroad Creek trails are closed, and may remain so for the duration of the remediation work:

[1]  Correction from original post which said "arsenic." Cyanide was used to separate gold from the ore and became mixed with the slurry which was dumped and became the tailings piles, per (p.16), also acid-forming iron sulfides are present (p. 17).