Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Roger Dey
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

LVFD aids in Rogers Pass culvert repair


Zach Muse

An excavator clears debris away from the culvert that wasn't draining properly

The Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department came to the aid of the Montana Department of Transportation last Wednesday when a plugged culvert just east of Roger's Pass threatened the stability of the highway.

MDT put the fire department's big 1000 gallon-per-minute pump to use in the effort to remove water from of a deep pool feed by run off from last week's rain that developed on the north side of Highway 200 near mile marker 99.

Harry Barnett, Maintenance Chief for MDOT's Great Falls Division, said Lewis and Clark County Deputy Sheriff Chris Joyce brought the LVFD's big pump to his attention when the highway was closed Wednesday, June 20.

Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse, who had just returned over the pass that same day after delivering sandbags to Augusta, said Joyce hauled the pump up to the site of the culvert while he grabbed a bunch of hose and headed back over the pass.

"(We) got it running and started pumping to get water out of the north side of highway, along with DOTs little pump," he said.

The pool that formed above the culvert had to be removed so the MDT crew could determine exactly why the culvert had stopped draining, but runoff in the drainage was reportedly refilling at a rapid rate. Muse said MDT rented a third pump and got all three of them working in the drainage to get the water level down to a point they could reach the culvert.

"Friday I went back up to make sure the pump was running good and see if they needed anything else. The water was way down and they got an excavator down in there and dug the ditch out till the culvert cleared," he said.

Barnett said they found the culvert had been plugged by debris from last year's Alice Creek Fire that had been washed down by the heavy rain.

"Once they were able to release that plug they had water flowing through the culvert again," he said.

"Once it did, it appeared that the highway was sound and we started clearing everything and got ready for opening the road," Muse said.

Highway 200 over Rogers Pass reopened at about 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, June 22, after being closed for about two and a half days.

"Because of your help and the use of the pump, we were able to get the pass open for the weekend and for the upcoming holiday week," Barnet said in a letter to Lincoln's firefighters. "I am sure that all of the travelers as well as local residents are grateful to have the hill open again.

Barnett told the BVD the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department works well with state agencies and appreciated their efforts last week.

"It was an outstanding deal that they had it and were gracious enough to let us use it," he said.

Zach Muse

Hoses carry water from the pool filled with runoff to the downhill side of Highway 200.

"They still have a ton of work to do and will be putting in an overflow culvert starting Monday, but the road will stay open," Muse told the BVD. "Not sure how they are gonna replace all the dirt that sloughed off on downhill side. Gonna be an engineering marvel. That's a steep bugger."

The Rogers Pass effort marked the second time this year the big pump, a Navy surplus unit obtained through the federal excess property program, has been put to use to help save a road. Earlier this year, it was used on Lone Point Road to help pump floodwater out of the drainage ditch coming out of the Glory Hole. Waters threatened the road in mid-May after water washed away a section of Lincoln Gulch Road as well as a second road that crossed the pit above the drainage ditch.


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