Wednesday, June 21, 2006

ITD project raises Forest Service concerns

New road, gravel pit built on state land in Sawtooth Valley

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Department of Transportation is building a dirt road on state land in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in order to create and access a new gravel pit near Fourth of July Creek, 45 miles north of Ketchum.

The project, which began last week, caught Sawtooth National Forest officials off guard.

The road stems off the Fourth of July Creek Road about a mile east of state Highway 75 and plows through sagebrush to the south before making a horseshoe turn to the west. Although only about a half-mile long, the road is well over a hundred feet wide in spots.

Another gravel pit managed by ITD already exists on state land less than a mile to the south, near Champion Creek. Last week, the Sawtooth National Forest issued a permit allowing ITD to expand the Champion gravel pit onto national forest land.

The Forest Service can't prevent road building and gravel pits on state land but the parameters of the new project was raising eyebrows, said Ed Waldapfel, spokesman and acting forest supervisor for the Sawtooth National Forest.

"We're concerned about it from the standpoint that we issued a permit to expand the Champion Creek site last week," Waldapfel said. "Our concern is the cumulative effect of (the gravel pit's) expansion and then they open one up right next door.

"So, we are in the process of determining what our next step will be—we are out there right now working with those folks."

Charlie Donaldson, of Hailey, said that he considered the road to be more than just an eyesore.

"I would say a gravel pit right in the middle of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is inappropriate," Donaldson said.

Department of Transportation officials didn't return phone calls and the Idaho Department of Lands could not be reached for comment.

Sarah Baldwin, SNRA area ranger, could not be reached for comment.

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