Winter road damage in national forests means summer wildfire trouble

Winter road damage in national forests means summer wildfire trouble

16 May 2017

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USA – EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Mudslides and erosion from winter storms have caused severe damage in all 18 National Forests in California. Some roads will be impassable for firefighters and tourists this summer.

“We haven’t seen a storm like this since 1997, 1998,” said Jennifer Chapman, spokesperson for Eldorado National Forest. “This is what we call a 25-year storm so this is a major event.”

There are roughly 557 road closure sites throughout California and 20 in Eldorado National Forest. Chapman says it means firefighters may have to use alternate routes or helicopters to get to some wildfires.

“Whenever we have a wildfire, we are going to do a good solid strong briefing for the crews that are going out there to make sure that they know what routes are going to be available and which ones aren’t,” she explained.

Repairs on Blacksmith Flat Road are on hold until August, when officials estimate the area will become stable again. Geologists working with the U.S. Forest Service have determined that more debris and mud are still moving down the hill.

“We’ve had asphalt that’s been ripped up,” Chapman said. “We’ve had culverts get plugged, we’ve had parts of roads just collapse.”

“Major damage $20 to $30 million just for this forest,” Chapman said.

But the damage extend to Stanislaus, Tahoe, and Plumas National Forests.

And that number will likely only get bigger as more damage is discovered. With additional damage in other nearby forests, there will be tough competition to get enough federal funding for all of the repairs.

Many families eager to spend time outside may run into road closure signs at their favorite recreation spots the Bridal Veil Picnic Area. It’s still covered with debris, making the popular location unsafe for families to visit.

“I’m sad to hear that,” said Jay Lind. “Especially with all this great weather we’re having. It’s tough.”

Lind drove all the way from Oakland to Tahoe National Forest just to show his brother from Chicago a little bit of the California landscape.

But Chapman recommends that families check the U.S. Forest Service’s map of closures before they hit the road.

“There are definitely going to be some favorite places where people will have to find an alternate location for,” she said.

Chapman says contracts and environmental analysis could put some repairs on hold for months. And with snow still melting in high elevations, there is some damage that has yet to be discovered.

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