Forest Supervisor Steve Ellis has declared a flood emergency on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Ellis also requested and received engineering assistance to help assess the damage.
"Many roads, bridges, trails, and recreation facilities on the Forest have suffered serious damage and the public needs to be patient as the repairs will take time," Ellis said in his declaration today.
Among the most notable casualties is Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, aka Forest Road 39. The popular summer route between Halfway and Joseph was closed late last week by flooding in North Pine Creek, according to a news release.
A Wallowa-Whitman engineer flew the route on Saturday and reported five places where at least half the road width is washed away. In one 500 foot section, the entire width of the road is gone.
There is no bypass. Forest Road 66 (Fish Lake Road), which at times has been used as a way around closures on Road 39, was also heavily damaged by high water and is impassible. Road 39 is closed to entry at the junction of Highway 86 near Halfway and north to the junction of Forest Road 66.
Road and bridge damage occurred on many Forest roads in the Halfway area requiring closure of an area bounded on the east by Road 39 and on the west by Road 77. Once the water recedes, crews will be checking bridges, culverts and roads across the forest to access the damage. The forest is seeking emergency funding for repair, but currently has no estimate on the cost or a repair timeframe.
Road and area closures will remain in place until determined the roads are safe for public travel.
The U.S. Forest Service asks drivers to respect road and area closures and be aware of hazards posed by high water on roads and near waterways. Undermining of the roadway may not be obvious on the road surface, the service said.
For additional information and updates about the closures, go to www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w