Jefferson County commissioners have declared a state of emergency for work on the Upper Hoh Road after a storm on Jan. 7 increased river flows and washed away a section of road that was 90 feet long by 20 feet wide. That portion of the roadway has been reduced to one lane. (Jefferson County Public Works Department)

Jefferson County commissioners have declared a state of emergency for work on the Upper Hoh Road after a storm on Jan. 7 increased river flows and washed away a section of road that was 90 feet long by 20 feet wide. That portion of the roadway has been reduced to one lane. (Jefferson County Public Works Department)

Jefferson commissioners declare emergency for Upper Hoh Road

Road suffers another instance of seasonal storm damage

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution declaring a state of emergency for Upper Hoh Road, after high waters severely damaged the road.

The commissioners approved the resolution Monday during their regular meeting as part of their consent agenda.

On Jan. 7, a significant storm caused the Hoh River’s flow rate to reach approximately 28,000 cubic feet per second and erode the bank and road near the river in a 20-foot wide and 90-foot long span over 24 hours, commissioners documents said.

There is currently a 20 foot vertical drop from the road’s edge to the water, documents said.

The Upper Hoh Road near milepost 8 is restricted to one lane as the county Public Works Department begins contracting and organizing emergency repairs to the road, documents said.

The Upper Hoh Road has been in consistent need of repairs as the county had to conduct emergency work on it in 2018 and more recently in October 2019.

The commissioners are looking at ways to have the federal government take care of the road because it is stretching county resources and is the only road access into Olympic National Park in Jefferson County, district 2 commissioner David Sullivan said.

“When you have an emergency that happens every year, you say ‘hey, this is a pattern’,” Sullivan said. “This is a problem that needs a federal solution.”

Until proactive measures can be taken, the county is stuck in a reactive loop as it fixes one portion of the road only to have another portion damaged soon after, said Philip Morley, county administrator.

“The future is very predictable,” Morley said. “It’s going to wash out again.”

Previous repairs and bank protections are holding, but there is another 250 feet of threatened roadway upstream that remains at risk of flood damage, documents said.

“It’s just Band-Aid after Band-Aid,” said chair Greg Brotherton. “It’s frustrating.”

The resolution allows the public works department to “enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to combat this emergency to protect the health and safety of persons and property,” documents said.

The full resolution and information on the damaged road can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-HohRoad.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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