Stillwater River Road re-opened
After two years, two months, and 11 days, residents along the southern end of Stillwater River Road can finally use their road once again, unhindered by big boulders.
The first phase of the rockslide clean-up process was completed on Monday.
The rockslide occurred around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of June 3, 2015. Large rocks from the slide fell into the Stillwater River and completely blocked Stillwater River Road upriver from the Midnight Canyon Bridge.
A group of engineers that evaluated the site following the incident said that the rockslide was caused by moisture from heavy rainstorms seeping behind wedges holding large sections of rock together.
As rockslide mitigation work could have resulted in a tremendous financial burden, the county searched for outside funding sources for the clean-up process.
A FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant was applied for, but denied for the 2015 cycle.
Stillwater County’s Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator Carol Arkell was persistent, and applied for the PDM 2016 cycle, submitting the application on May 31, 2016.
The county’s second application was more successful.
It was “front loaded” with drone footage, in addition to a significant amount of environmental information, which led to a fairly quick and easy grant review process, according to State DES Mitigation Officer Nadene Wadsworth.
On May 22, 2017, almost a year after initially applying, the county commissioners learned the application had been approved.
At the June 22 grant presentation ceremony at the site of the rockslide, Wadsworth said the drone footage of the site included in the application impressed many people during the nationally competitive grant process.
District Five DES Representative Charlie Hanson praised Arkell and the county for the perseverance on the grant at the ceremony, and said, “it’s a really, really big deal for a rural county like Stillwater to get a grant award like this.”
The grant was for a project total of $2.48 million, including $1.86 million in FEMA funding and $620,000 in county matching funds.
During the grant process, the county could not work on the site to avoid jeopardizing any funding.
The rockslide clean-up process is split into two phases. Phase 1 was rock removal, and began on July 25 when equipment was moved to the project site.
HI-TECH Rockfall Construction, out of Oregon, completed the Phase 1 work, including creating and installing a temporary berm and fence, scaling the lose rock, and rebuilding the road.
Phase 1 was completed on August 14, about a week earlier than initially anticipated.
At Tuesday’s commissioners’ agenda meeting, Road and Bridge Superintendent Mark Schreiner reported that a phone company will be in the area to re-bury lines this week.
According to Arkell, Phase 2 is rock reinforcement and rockfall mitigation. A bidding process will soon be underway for these jobs.
Reinforcement includes rock bolts and weep holes. Mitigation is expected to include anchored rock mesh and possibly a rope net.
Phase 2 will fulfill the goal of the PDM grant, which is to “reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events,” according to the FEMA website.
Based on the combined total of almost 25,000 views on the News and DES Facebook pages by Tuesday afternoon, about a day and a half after announcing the road’s re-opening, many people are glad the Stillwater River Road is back in business.