JUNEAU, Alaska- Alaska Regional Forester Denny Bschor announced today that seven road maintenance and decommissioning and associated watershed restoration projects, totaling over $8 million, were funded for Alaska under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These projects were a part of the 106 projects funded at more than $228 million on national forest system lands in 31 states that were announced by Secretary Tom Vilsack today.
“These road maintenance projects will provide for public health and safety, resource protection, and access to lands in the national forests,” said Vilsack. “The rehabilitation of roads will improve water quality by reducing sediments in nearby streams and help to restore natural resources and habitat for fish in areas impacted by deterioration and erosion of road surfaces.”
The Forest Service manages almost 370,000 miles of road and 143,000 miles of trails on the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Our roads provide Americans access to these lands for their livelihoods and enjoyment. A safe and well-managed system of roads protects water quality and allows citizens to participate in hiking, touring, wildlife viewing, skiing, fishing, camping, hunting, boating, and many other outdoor activities. The Forest Service transportation system is critical to local and regional economies because it is a key element that supports the businesses and activities that occur within or adjacent to these lands.
“This $8 million will allow us to rehabilitate thousands of acres of habitat and fix over 300 stream crossings,” said Bschor. “These projects not only provide immediate jobs, they provide a continued source of fish and wildlife for subsistence, recreational and commercial harvests, and safer travel through Alaska national forests for all of us.”
“With this release of funds, the Forest Service has injected $18,216,000 of ARRA funding into the state of Alaska since March 9,” Bschor added.
A diverse set of road maintenance activities will be undertaken. Road maintenance projects are identified through extensive analysis of resource conditions and public needs. Stabilizing or relocating roads too close to lakes and streams will prevent erosion and protect water quality. Decommissioning roads and restoring native vegetation helps snow and rainfall to quickly absorb into the land and reduces erosion and flooding. Individuals hired under ARRA will complete this labor-intensive work through a number of approaches: installing physical barriers at road entrances, replanting road beds, erosion control, removing fills and culverts, reestablishing drainage-ways, stabilizing road shoulders, and totally obliterating roads and reshaping roadbeds to match the surrounding area.
Editor Note: Attached is complete list of projects with descriptions, locations, and dollar amounts.
Tongass Road Reconstruction and Decommissioning
Estimated Funding: $ 1,119,000
Location: Southeast Alaska
This project is on the Tongass National Forest and covers an area in Southeast Alaska from Prince of Wales Island in the south, to Yakutat in the north. It will provide badly needed jobs in economically depressed areas with high unemployment. Public involvement through Access and Travel Management planning identified important portions of this project. The roadwork will reconstruct ditches, clean culverts, repair roads, brush roadsides, and resurface roads with crushed rock at various locations on 27 miles of roads. This work includes temporary closure of 2.6 miles of road; removing 1.6 miles of road to restore the land and restore 30 salmon stream crossings. By improving water quality in major spawning streams, it is hoped that four species of salmon will increase in numbers. This is important for wildlife, subsistence users, commercial fishers, and tourism operators who rely on excellent fishing opportunities to draw visitors. Project benefits also include improved public health and safety, improved watersheds, and right-sized transportation systems that meet resource management and funding.
Ocean Boulevard Forest Thinning
Funding: $ 677,000
Location: South Chichagof Island, 34 miles north of Sitka
Following completion of the Tongass Road Reconstruction and Decommissioning companion roads project; this project will thin 238 acres of young growth forest to improve forest health. It increases the space, sunlight, water and nutrients available for the remaining trees, allowing them to thrive and grow, providing improved habitat for deer. Benefits include better subsistence opportunities. This project has strong support from the community of Sitka, the Sitka Tribal Council, and The Nature Conservancy. In addition to jobs supported by the actual project, it will also create economic benefits to local communities from service and supply industries during project implementation.
Colorado Road and Trail Fish Passage Improvement in Alaska
Funding: $ 300,000
Partners: Yakutat Salmon Board, The Nature Conservancy, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, City and Borough of Yakutat
In Yakutat, Alaska, 90 percent of the town's economy depends upon subsistence and recreational and commercial fisheries. Healthy wetlands, streams and watersheds are critical; however, historic roads built for oil exploration damaged over 6,000 acres of wetlands and streams in the Situk and Lost River watersheds near Yakutat. These roads diverted streams and blocked salmon passage with abandoned plugged culverts. This project, associated with a road project on the Tongass National Forest, reconnects 40 salmon streams, re-opens more than 25 miles of habitat, and restores 6,000 acres of wetland. The project will also eliminate periodic flooding of the Yakutat Airport by re-creating natural drainage. A combination of contract, cooperative agreement and Forest Service staff labor will do the work in an area with high unemployment. The Yakutat Salmon Board is a project partner, supplying funding and labor. Additional partners include The Nature Conservancy, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe and the City and Borough of Yakutat.
Chugach National Forest - Snug Harbor Road Recondition and Resurface
Funding: $ 1,500,000
Location: Kenai Peninsula Borough
Partners: Chugach Electric Association
This project is located south of Anchorage along the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing, Alaska, in the Chugach National Forest. It covers eight miles of road reconstruction and laying of new gravel on an existing national forest road. The road is severely degraded and does not provide the level of service needed by the public and businesses. In recent years, several culverts have washed out resulting in costly emergency repairs, resource damage, and disruption of service. The project will provide a safer public experience and reduce deferred road maintenance on the existing road. Snug Harbor Road provides the only access to a national forest trailhead and to a hydroelectric plant that provides power to the Kenai Peninsula. An existing agreement with Chugach Electric Association will ensure that the reconstructed road is maintained to the appropriate standard.
Tongass National Forest - Bridge Repair/Replacement
Funding: $ 1,100,000
Location: Southeast Alaska
People who live in Hoonah, Petersburg and the 9 communities on Prince of Wales Island must travel every day over 18 unsafe bridges with missing guardrails and worn-out surfaces. All of these bridges are on routes that serve as direct links for access needs, making them all but impossible to avoid. Improvements include several bridge repair and replacement projects across the Tongass National Forest.
Tongass National Forest - South Tongass Bridge and Culvert Replacement
Funding: $ 1,210,000
Location: Prince of Wales and Revillagigdo Islands
Criteria for bridges and culvert stream crossings have changed dramatically in a decade; many old stream crossings do not meet the current standards that allow fish to move up or down stream. These bridges and culverts are also public health and safety risks at stream crossings located on Revillagigdo and Prince of Wales Islands. Some of these structures block salmon and resident fish passage in important streams. This limits survival and reproduction for these species and the wildlife and people who depend upon them for food. These roads provide community connections and access for subsistence and recreational fishing. This project will replace 11 deficient bridges and major culverts on high use roads and will improve safety for forest visitors. This project will reopen about five miles of high value salmon habitat and the work will provide much-needed jobs in areas of high unemployment for a full construction season in addition to long-term benefits to subsistence, recreational, and commercial fishing.
Tongass National Forest - Road Decommissioning
Estimated Funding: $ 2,142,000
Location: Ketchikan area
This project will temporarily close and remove 92 miles of road to restore the land and restore salmon stream crossings and will reduce maintenance costs as well. An additional 40 miles of roads will be converted to motorized vehicle trails, improving access for subsistence hunting and gathering activities, as well as for recreational users. Workers will use road closure methods that benefit fish habitat. By removing over 300 stream crossing structures, they will restore natural drainage patterns. This will reestablish fish passage in salmon streams and reduce sedimentation. Benefits include reducing deferred maintenance and right sizing the road system so that maintenance dollars can be put toward higher-priority roads.