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

By Roger Dey
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

Impact of spring flooding spreads to county road maintenance


For two months this spring Lewis and Clark County road crews dealt with two rounds of flooding that took a toll on county roads. Although the water has subsided, County Public Works Director Eric Griffin told the BVD the damage it left behind and the time spent dealing with it will affect road maintenance projects throughout the county for the rest of the year.

Recently, Griffin has been fielding calls from the Lincoln area residents concerned about roads being graded without a water truck on hand to keep dust down. He said he agrees 100 percent that it's a problem, but said circumstances have forced him to prioritize the use of his people and equipment, including water trucks and the personnel to drive them.

"To the residents: we're aware," he said. "We're behind. We lost May and June basically to chasing water around the county."

Griffin said his crews started "chasing water" April 29, when the first of two flood events began to impact county infrastructure, including roads in the Lincoln area.

"We were kind of getting caught back up, and then event two hit. Not necessarily in the Lincoln country, but Ten Mile (Creek) blew up again, and the Augusta country got hit really hard," he said.

The severity of the flood-damage to roads around Augusta quickly made them a top priority for the county.

"The majority of our crew has been up in that Augusta country ... with our bridges and our roads being washed out," he said. "We're just trying to get, basically goat trails, into those up in that country right now."

With the flood damage pulling resources from normal maintenance projects, the impact began to ripple across the county as routine projects such as road grading and pothole repair took a back seat.

This week, Griffin has pulled his people back onto Helena for asphalt projects around the capital city, an annual project that has also been has been affected by the county-wide needs.

"We typically do a couple weeks of asphalt work. We've cut that project down to just one because we're not gonna get that done," he said. "Some of the stuff we're going to have to prioritize. Some of the stuff is going to have to wait until next year,"

A project near Lincoln that Griffin said remains a priority for this year is the big washout on Lincoln Gulch Road. In May, runoff tore out the road and the big culvert that drains water from the gulch into the Glory Hole. Since then, residents who live above the washout have had to take a detour through the Lone Point Subdivision

Griffin assessed the washout with the county engineer a couple weeks ago and said the cost to repair it was estimated to be more than $300,000.

He said they are working with the Montana Department of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a solution.

Griffin said the repair they are likely to go with was one of three alternatives first considered in 2011, when flooding washed away the same section of road. It involves replacing the culvert and installing articulated or cabled concrete, 12-inch by 12-inch concrete blocks tied together with cables, that's designed to reinforce roadways and drainage areas and limit erosion by allowing water to drain through gravel between the blocks. The design can often be seen at some boat ramps and around culverts.

"We looked at a bridge, but that estimate is not doable at this time," Griffin said.

Despite his desire to see the road repaired this year, Griffin said he doesn't yet have a time estimate on when the project will be completed.

The problems created by the flooding this year didn't delay the area's other major infrastructure project the county has been working on.

"Our TSEP Grant was submitted for the Dalton Mountain bridge project, so that was good," Griffin said. "Some of these big things we're staying the course. Some of the routine, we've got to just sit on."

Beyond the county infrastructure, National Forest roads around Lincoln also took a beating after a triple whammy from last summer's fires, the winter's heavy snowpack and spring runoff, but Lincoln Ranger District Resource Manager Josh Lattin said late last month that they have completed most of the repair work on the main Forest Service roads around Lincoln.

"Park Creek Road and Beaver Creek Road; all the new culvert installations and culvert repair work has been done," he said. "Those are completed and open for business."

A slump on Sauerkraut Road was also repaired last month, as was the Nevada Ogden Road, which washed out twice when floodwaters from the Blackfoot River inundated the Moose Creek Campground.

At the end of June he said the only major repairs remaining were the large, washed out culvert on Sucker Creek Road and a water damaged section of Lincoln Gulch Road near the old cemetery. At that time, Lattin said the Ranger District's plan was to address it after Lewis and Clark County completes repair work on their section of Lincoln Gulch Road.


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