Inyo National Forest Supervisor Jon Regelbrugge recently updated Town Council, on the fuels removal project that started earlier this month affecting the Reds Meadow Valley and Devils Postpile area. Concerned citizen Paul Payne asked Regelbrugge whether the Forest Service planned to repair any damage to the main road down to Reds Meadow Valley after it completes the work. Regelbrugge responded that the road was damaged before the work started, there is no money to do any repair and the Forest Service has no plans to conduct any repairs once its work is done.
Trucks carrying out large quantities of wood will create traffic snafus during several daytime periods. A press release said visitors should expect short traffic delays and could be stopped for 15-20 minutes at the Minaret Vista Entrance Station while loaded log trucks travel the single-lane portion of Reds Meadow Road. Log hauling delays will mainly be between 6-10 a.m. Regelbrugge told Council other traffic controls might also be implemented going to and from the valley floor as the project evolves.
A half-mile of temporary roads was to be constructed to access treatment areas. Heavy equipment will be used to remove trees from treatment areas, including a dozer, loaders and a helicopter in very hard to reach sections. Trees will be hauled from the Reds Meadow Valley on large log trucks, which Payne suggested will likely mean more damage to the narrow road already pocked by potholes and failing patches.
Some of the wood is to be “sold off,” but according to Scott Kusumoto, with the Bureau of Land Management’s Interagency Vegetation Management Team, part of the interagency effort, “sold” in this case translates to a “stewardship trade contract.” The contractor will waive their fees for rights to some of the wood, and also pay a certain amount toward road upkeep, though Kusumoto said the actual money would only pay for superficial touchups. Whether any significant federal funding to cover any major roadwork becomes available in the future is hard to say at this point, he said.
According to Public Affairs Officer Nancy Upham, this week Regelbrugge confirmed Kusumoto’s assessment. “A small amount of the fees paid by the contractor, approximately $25,000, does go into a Surface Replacement Deposit fund,” she explained. “As Scott Kusumoto said, this does not come close to covering the major road work necessary to repair the existing condition of the Reds Meadow road, with most of the problems existing before any logging trucks went down or up the road.”
Simple potholes and other patching work will most likely be covered by that fund, she went on to say. “This work will likely happen next spring or summer as the logging trucks will be lucky to get all of the logs out before the snow flies,” Upham noted, adding that Regelbrugge also seconded Kusumoto’s assessment that the U.S.F.S. can only wait until there is more funding for expanded road rehab.