Jefferson commissioners extend consultant deal for aid in tackling Upper Hoh Road woes
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Lonnie Archibald/Peninsula Daily News
Clallam County PUD trucks drive past a washout on the Upper Hoh Road in January 2009 en route to another washout upstream where power had been knocked out.
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
A back hoe works to drain an overflowing creek that washed out Upper Hoh Road in 2009.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — It's the most expensive road to maintain in Jefferson County.

Since 1998, the first 12 miles of Upper Hoh Road in west Jefferson County have required $13.5 million in washouts repairs and culvert replacements.

But although this section of 16-mile road to Olympic National Park's Hoh Rain Forest center is the responsibility of Jefferson County, none of the money used has been from county funds.

The county manages the road repair process with the hiring of contractors and supervision of the projects, but the only cost to the county is staff time, said Monte Reinders, public works director.

Reinders said grant money comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

County commissioners Monday extended a contract with consultant Strategies 360 of Seattle to help the county manage expenses and acquire grant funding for Upper Hoh Road after a contract executed with the firm in July 2012 had expired.

The contract with the company is for no more than $50,000 annually through December 2016 — and that cost is covered by grant funding, Reinders said.

“Strategy 360 has helped us to convince the federal government to get involved,” he said.

“This costs a lot of money that the county does not have, and they have helped us to get what we need.”

The county's portion of the road south of Forks is from its intersection with U.S. Highway 101 and the park boundary.

The park maintains the remaining 4 miles of the road that draws some 200,000 to 300,000 each year to the rainforest center.

It's “pretty important for tourists,” Reinders said.

The county says another $3.5 million in work is anticipated.

The road is difficult to maintain because the Hoh River runs alongside it and often moves, causing washouts, Reinders said.

“Every time we repair a culvert, we need to build a new bridge,” he said.

With the expected construction of a new span, there will be 11 bridges on the 12-mile stretch, Reinders said.

Strategy 360, which has offices in 10 western states and Washington, D.C., has helped the county navigate the legislative process and acquire grants for the maintenance of the road.

Reinders said working on a road adjacent to a river system is especially challenging because it requires a process that doesn't damage the habitat or wildlife.

The changing path of the river causes a ripple effect that cuts into the bank of the road and needs to be reinforced or replaced.

“The West End rivers are very dynamic, meaning they are constantly shifting their course as they move gravel downstream,” Reinders said.

“You may go for years with the river nowhere near the road and then wake up one morning with a different scenario.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 12. 2014 7:36PM
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