LONGMIRE, Wash. (AP) Recent snow and rain has slowed repairs to the most traveled road in Mount Rainier National Park, delaying the return of public access to Paradise and Longmire.
“What we have been saying all along is if everything went perfectly, we would be open by mid-March,” park Spokesman Kevin Bacher said Jan. 19. “At this point, it will be early April.”
Most of the park has been closed since Nov. 6 after 18 in. of rain fell in 36 hours.
Working to get Nisqually Road open, park road crews and maintenance workers have endured days of cold, rain and snow.
“I’ve lost count of how many days I’ve worked since this started in November,” said Cody Manzer, a heavy equipment operator of the park. “I did work 17 days in a row at one point.”
With most of the park’s other damaged roads under snow, crews have focused on repairing Nisqually Road.
On Jan. 18, crews began installing the first of two sets of culverts to manage the Kautz Creek approximately 3 mi. from the Nisqually entrance.
Debris created by the November floods forced the creek out of its channel and through the forest. Since then it’s been flowing over the road.
Three culverts, 30 in. (76.2 cm) wide by 40 ft. (12.2 m) long, will be installed approximately a quarter-mile from the existing Kautz Creek bridge. Crews will then redirect the creek under the road by installing two 12-ft.-wide (3.6 m) culverts.
“They are intended to withstand a 50-year flood,” Bacher said.
It could take most of the summer to repair large washouts at other roads such as state Route 123, and Stevens Canyon and Carbon River roads, Bacher said.
At milepost 5 on Nisqually Road, crews have started repairing a 65-ft. slide and eventually plan to rebuild the embankment.
The National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration have provided $36 million for work at Kautz Creek and on other park roads. In January, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks announced that $18 million from unspent highway and construction accounts would go toward repairing damage in the park.
Dicks is chairman of the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the National Park Service.