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5/19/2004 11:39:00 AM

Appeals, counter-comments filed on Dosewallips Road decision

By Janet Huck
Leader Staff Writer

The battle of the appeals has begun.

Four environmental organizations and two individuals have filed two separate appeals of the U.S. Forest Service's March 22 decision to construct a new bypass on the washed-out section of Dosewallips Road.

Now the Brinnon Chamber of Commerce, Brinnon Prosperity and Brinnon residents are scrambling to comment on the appeals by the deadline. "THE DEADLINE IS MAY 25, 2004! You must act, NOW, and support the rebuilding of the road," urges Brinnon Prosperity's website.

The appeal process is straightforward. Environmental groups had 45 days to file an appeal. The Olympic Forest Coalition and its partners filed a 250-page brief. Then the supporters of the Forest Service decision have 15 days to comment on the appeal. A team in the Forest Service regional office in Portland, Ore., is reviewing the documents. The deciding officer is Linda Goodman, regional forester.

"The appeal procedure is pretty simple," said Forest Service District Ranger David Craig. "The issues aren't simple."

Two years ago in a monumental January storm, the old, narrow Dosewallips Road washed out about 10 miles upstream of U.S. Highway 101. Biologists said the crumbling bank of the Dosewallips washout area became an important source of spawning-ground gravel for salmon, so the agency couldn't repair the road. Consequently, the agency decided March 22, 2004, to construct a new bypass on the timbered terrace above the washout.

The reconnected road would reopen vehicle access to Elkhorn Campground, the Olympic National Park's Dosewallips Ranger Station, the Dosewallips Campground and several trailheads.

The Olympia-based Olympic Forest Coalition and the Bellingham-based Northwest Ecosystem Alliance are asking the Forest Service to withdraw its decision. Alternatively, they request a full Environmental Impact Statement, since the new route could affect critical habitat for the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, both threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

"We are going to lose four acres of classic old-growth trees in an area that is specifically designed to protect old growth," said Jim Scarborough, chairman of the Olympic Forest Coalition, an Olympia-based environmental group. "The numbers for the spotted owl are crashing."

Brinnon residents contend their economically depressed area, now without strong forest and fishing industries, needs tourism that comes from trailhead and campground access.

In his comments, Brinnon Prosperity proponent Ken Shock noted the bypass would create a new protected habitat for salmon. Norman MacLeod, also a member of Brinnon Prosperity, said the bypass construction area amounts to only 0.00063 percent of the total Olympic National Forest acreage.

"Without the restoration of vehicle access, many elderly, very young and 'alternatively abled' people will forever lose the near-wilderness experience," MacLeod wrote.