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Haul Road Restoration Phase 3 Underway

Update on the progress of the 3rd phase of restoration on the Haul Road.

Haul Road Restoration Phase 3 Underway

Progress on Haul Road Phase 3 Restoration

The Klickitat River is a short but powerful river flowing off the foothills of Mt. Adams to its confluence with the Columbia River near the town of Lyle, Washington.  The lower 19 miles of the river are constrained by a highway on one side and an old railroad embankment on the other, funneling the river through its historic landscape and disrupting important habitat-forming processes that normally occur when the river has full access to its floodplain. 

Immediately upstream of river mile 19, the river passes through the Klickitat Wildlife Area, a 14,000 acre network of public lands that stretch for 13 miles upriver to the bridge at Dead Canyon, no houses, no bridges, no built infrastructure except for one privately-owned, paved road that lies directly in the active floodplain of the river.  A major portion of the road washed out in the floods of 1996, rendering it useless for its intended purpose hauling timber from the upper watershed to the town of Klickitat. Since then, portions of the road have collapsed into the river, contributing sediments and asphalt to the river while the bulk of what remains continues to limit the river's function in the floodplain.

 In 2007, Columbia Land Trust, funded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, purchased the road for conservation and in 2009, began the long road to recovery.  Responsible for over 50% of annually observed fall Chinook spawning, 30% of steelhead spawning, and 38% of coho spawning, this reach of the river again has the potential to re-access the full extent of its historic floodplain.  And one day in the not-so-distant future, the river will again form off-channel habitat where juvenile fish can escape the high velocities of flood water; scour oxygen-rich, deep pools against the steep-walled bedrock of the canyon; and benefit from fully vegetated shorelines that provide shade and recruitment of large woody debris, an important component in forming channel complexity.

 Since the first earthmoving equipment rambled up the road in 2009, in cooperation with our partner, Yakama Nation Fisheries Program, we've removed over 4.5 miles of asphalt and we've deconstructed an old railroad bridge and its 570-foot embankment across Dead Canyon.  We've removed or re-contoured 1.3 miles of road fill, and we've constructed 1/3 mile of floodplain channel with 11 large woody debris jams.  In this third phase of construction, we have already removed an additional 1.7 miles of asphalt and the crew is actively removing fill and re-contouring hill slopes along another mile and a half of the Klickitat River floodplain. 

 The road corridor is open to the public for non-motorized, passive recreation except during active construction and periods of high fire risk.  The road is currently closed due to construction through mid-September.  Please see the Haul Road Closure update for the current status of the road.

 

Lindsay Cornelius - August 9, 2012

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