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Paperwork process stymies Illahee Road cleanup

The December floods washed out a section of Illahee Road between California Street and Varsity Lane NE. Kitsap County Public Works is awaiting approval on permits and has no timeline for the project.  - Paul Balcerak/file photo 2007
The December floods washed out a section of Illahee Road between California Street and Varsity Lane NE. Kitsap County Public Works is awaiting approval on permits and has no timeline for the project.
— image credit: Paul Balcerak/file photo 2007

Drivers who have circumvented the washed out section of Illahee Road between California Street and Varsity Lane NE have hopefully gotten used to their new routes — it may be a long time before the road is passable again.

The Kitsap County Public Works department has applied for several permits on a plan to replace the section of road and culvert that were washed away during the December 2007 floods. Receiving approval on those permits, however, could take a while. There is currently no timeline for the project.

“We’re definitely working on it and working hard on it,” said Tina Nelson, senior program manager for Kitsap County Public Works.

The project is more or less in limbo while a handful of federal agencies — including the Department of Ecology, the Federal Highway Administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — review public works’ plans.

“Unfortunately, the corps of engineers won’t even look at our information till they have the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) approval from federal highways,” public works design manager Dick Dadisman said.

There’s no indication as to when that approval will come.

“Probably two months before I know,” Dadisman said.

There’s also no guarantee the plans will be approved.

The apparent mountain of red tape and myriad federal agencies have amassed due to the location of the washout, right over Illahee Creek. It was that creek that flooded and forced an equally imposing mountain of dirt and roadway down a deep gorge that the old road spanned.

Public works had hoped to rebuild the road and culvert as an emergency project — a move that would have allowed construction to begin sometime this summer.

Federal standards scuttled that idea.

“The federal departments are pretty stringent on whether they’ll allow this as an emergency project,” Nelson said.

At issue there was the fact that people on either side of the washout still had access to main roads and essential services, like emergency services.

“Right now there are some inconveniences, but people can still get around,” Nelson said.

As to when residents and drivers on Illahee can expect a resolution to the current stalemate, Dadisman and Nelson are somewhat split in terms of their optimism.

It “would be nice” to get the project done by fall, Nelson said. “But I’m not hopeful.”

Dadisman thinks it’s still possible, though not entirely likely.

He points to what some agencies term the “fish window” — a period of time during salmon spawning when stream projects are generally not allowed. The date for that window is generally accepted as starting on Sept. 30 each year.

People can stay up-to-date on all road work in the county on public works’ Road Report Web page at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roadwork.htm.

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