WENATCHEE, Wash. - Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars have trickled all the way into the national forests of Washington, where the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is using them to catch up on a huge backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
Ten projects will soon be underway in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Gretchen Barkmann, a USFS engineer in Okanogan-Wenatchee, says some of the priorities there are making public campgrounds more accessible and improving water quality for salmon and steelhead.
"We're doing some very good work with this funding. We're definitely happy to have it, because it allows us to get some pretty important work done on the ground."
Barkmann says the projects range from repairing bridges and chip-sealing crumbling roads, to keeping sediment out of streams by building what are called "drivable water bars" through areas with creeks.
"They're 'drivable' in that they allow a car to go over them. It's kind-of like a ditch across the road, but very gradual, very smooth, so it quickly gets the water off the road. It's good for fish because it reduces the amount of sediment that gets into the stream."
They hope to have most of the work completed before the snow flies this winter, she adds. In allocating the money across the nation, the USFS looked at areas where unemployment levels had been the highest. Other recently-dispersed funds for Washington will be spent in Clark and Skamania Counties.