By Jeremy Schwartz and Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Friday that staff members are working on an environmental assessment that will examine the impact of moving the iconic 2½-story, 84-year-old chalet a short distance away from the East Fork of the Quinault River.
The move would protect the river and in-stream natural resources from immediate harm and provide more time to develop a plan for the long-term future of the building, Maynes explained.
A 4-foot section of the historic wooden structure in the heart of the park was undercut by the river last winter.
The assessment is expected to be released for an “expedited” public comment period in the next few weeks, Maynes said.
“We want to let people know it's coming, so be on the lookout,” Maynes said, adding that the length of the public comment period has not yet been set.
Once completed, Maynes said, the assessment will be posted at www.parkplanning.nps.gov.
Park staff will make paper copies available for those who request them.
Jeff Monroe, owner of Carlsborg-based Monroe House Moving, has devised a plan to lift the building onto a temporary track and move it 592 feet to a patch of high ground within a week.
Maynes said park officials have talked with Monroe about what he can offer, though they cannot involve any contractor in the development of the environmental assessment due to federal contracting laws.
“We cannot do anything that would grant someone some sort of unfair advantage in the contracting process,” she said.
Maynes said the park is not planning public meetings during the comment period since park staff have received numerous calls, letters and emails about the chalet and what the park should do with it.
“We've heard from many, many people,” Maynes said.
“I think people who are interested in this kind of thing are pretty well tuned in.”
The chalet would be kept intact for the move, Maynes said, though the details of how it would be moved and exactly where are still being worked out.
“We'll have all those details when the [environmental assessment] is released,” she said.
The Enchanted Valley Chalet is in the national park's Olympic wilderness about 15 miles from the Graves Creek trailhead on the southwest side of the park.
It sits in a floodplain where the river meanders from one side of the valley to the other.
“The National Park Service is charged with protecting all of Olympic National Park's priceless resources, from historic structures like the chalet to bull trout, a federally listed threatened species that lives in the East Fork Quinault, to the unique and irreplaceable character of the Olympic wilderness,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a statement.
Monroe said Friday he had “major discussions” with park officials in a 2½-hour meeting Tuesday.
He said he received 11 phone calls that day from people concerned about preserving the chalet.
“We need to move it 50 feet no matter what happens so it doesn't fall into the river,” Monroe said.
“The immediate concern is to get it away from the river.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com