The Oregon Department of Transportation is working with the U.S. Forest Service to address hundreds of hazard trees near the U.S. 395 highway right-of-way south of John Day that were damaged by the 2015 Canyon Creek Complex fire.
Work is scheduled to start April 9 and continue for about two weeks, according to a press release. Motorists can expect delays of up to 20 minutes with flaggers and pilot cars directing traffic through the work zone between mile points 10.6 and 16.2. The highway will be closed at both ends of the project with pilot cars stationed nearby.
Tree falling activities will be halted about every 20 minutes when traffic is present. When the route is safe for travel, the pilot cars will escort waiting motorist through the area. For safety reasons, all motorists will need to stay with the pilot car line and not stop or pull over while in the work zone.
Most of the trees cut down will be left in place where they fall to help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion issues. The area is slowly recovering from the fire that destroyed much of the ground anchoring vegetation. Some trees may be relocated for other erosion control or stream habitat needs.
“The goal is to drop the trees so they are adjacent to existing stumps and rocks that will prevent them from rolling or moving onto the highway,” said Blue Mountain District Ranger David Halemeier. “If they cannot be placed in such a manner they will be removed for safety reasons. Because of the loss of vegetation, the ground is more susceptible to erosion. These trees will help catch and hold the soil in place until ground cover returns.”
The down trees are not to be removed or cut for fire wood. Doing so violates the conditions found within the Malheur National Forest wood cutting permit, and violators will be cited.
About 16 trees were taken down and placed in Vance Creek around March 7 for stream improvement under the direction of the U.S. Forest Service, who will monitor the entire operation. Work is taking place early in the season to lessen the impact for nesting birds and other animals.
ODOT is working with their office of maintenance and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure staff involved with tree falling efforts received appropriate training prior to the operation.
“We are working closely with ODOT on this project to ensure crews are properly trained and the traveling public is kept safe,” said Halemeier. “Please drive with extra caution as you move through the work zone, stay with the pilot car line and watch for crews and equipment. We know this can be an inconvenience for travelers and will get the project completed as soon as possible.”
For more information, contact ODOT Region 5 Public Information Officer Tom Strandberg, 541-963-1330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.