On Sunday, visitors to Olympic National Park walk along Olympic Hot Springs Road, which has been closed to vehicle traffic after winters storms washed out the road near the former Elwha Campground. Olympic National Park is seeking public comment on its proposal to investigate whether it is feasible to move the road out of the river’s flood plain. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

On Sunday, visitors to Olympic National Park walk along Olympic Hot Springs Road, which has been closed to vehicle traffic after winters storms washed out the road near the former Elwha Campground. Olympic National Park is seeking public comment on its proposal to investigate whether it is feasible to move the road out of the river’s flood plain. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Public comment being taken for Olympic Hot Springs Road action

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — An environmental assessment of a proposed geotechnical investigation to judge the engineering feasibility of relocating a portion of Olympic Hot Springs Road outside the Elwha River flood plain is now available for a 30-day public review and comment period.

During the public comment period, which ends Aug. 31, the National Park Service will host one in-person public meeting where Olympic National Park and Federal Highway Administration staff will be available to discuss the environmental assessment.

The meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center, 401 E. First St., in Port Angeles. After the presentation will be an opportunity to ask questions.

“Long-term, sustainable public access in the Elwha Valley is our goal,” Sarah Crechbaum, park superintendent, said in a statement. “This is a necessary step before we can analyze viable options for the road and we appreciate the public’s participation.”

The EA analyzes the potential impacts of conducting a geotechnical investigation including equipment access for drilling approximately 22 off-road test borings, excavating two test pits, and monitoring subsurface conditions along a one-mile stretch of the slope east of Olympic Hot Springs Road.

Monitoring instruments would be installed at the off-road test boring sites to collect data and monitor slope stability.

If deemed feasible, the analysis of a potential road relocation would then occur in a separate EA. That EA would address long-term planning for the Olympic Hot Springs Road. Scoping for the next EA could occur as early as this winter.

The Elwha River has repeatedly destroyed the road since removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams was finished in 2014. Flooding in the floodplain was an issue identified in the 2005 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for dam removal.

A flood destroyed a section of the road near the former Elwha Campground in December, forcing park officials to close the gate on Olympic Hot Springs Road near the Madison Falls trailhead.

Storms in November 2015 washed out a nearby section of road, but crews installed a temporary bridge to carry traffic over the reactivated channel of the river.

The road reopened in January 2017, but closed again three weeks later after heavy rain and snow melt caused the swollen river to flow through the former Elwha Campground.

Olympic National Park recently installed two temporary bridges over the most recent washout, improving foot and bike access to the Elwha Valley. Those bridges will be removed this fall.

The EA is available for a review and comment on the project planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/OHSgeotech. Comments may be submitted directly on this site by clicking on “Open for Comment” and following the links to review the document and submit a comment. Comments will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. MDT on Friday, Aug. 31.

Comments also can be mailed or hand-delivered to Olympic National Park, Attn: Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum, Temporary Off-road Access for Geotechnical Investigation/EA, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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