|ROAD AGREEMENT STAYS IN PLACE|
WILLIAMS CREEK ROAD 8-24-15 LMS
An application is in the process of being prepared for a Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant of $2 million to be used to resurface 20 miles of the Williams Creek Road.
Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark and Acting Forest Engineer Alan McKean met with the Lemhi County Commissioners Monday, August 24, to discuss the possibility of changing the present Williams Creek Road maintenance agreement to one that would give the Forest Service an official ownership easement on the road. Proponents of the plan feel that having an easement on the road rather than a Schedule A agreement would create a better chance of obtaining the FLAP funding.
Research has determined the best for both entities is the agreement already in place.
At present the county is responsible for the grading and snow removal on the road and the Forest Service is responsible for any needed road repair work or new culverts.
At the August 24 meeting it was the opinion of the county that an easement would give the Forest Service a forever ownership of the road and give the county a forever responsibility for all road maintenance, including repairs and culvert replacement which is not part of the current agreement.
County Road and Bridge Supervisor Kerrie Cheney was in attendance at the meeting and he said that due to high traffic use and weather related vulnerability, the Williams Creek Road represents the highest road maintenance cost in the county. Itís also a constant source of phone calls to his department. He viewed an easement as benefiting the Forest Service more than the county.
Mark called the possibility of being able to upgrade and surface two miles of that road a good opportunity and McKean said $2 million for 20 miles of road is a very large amount of money.
County Commissioner John Jakovac said he felt very cautious about signing on to the long-term obligation, especially before there is any guarantee the FLAP money will be awarded. He said that is a big risk.
It was acknowledged that if the $2 million were to be awarded it would certainly provide a great improvement to 20 miles of the Williams Creek Road, initially. Commissioner Rick Snyder said the potential money looks good in the short-term but in the long-term full maintenance of the road would be quite an encumbrance to the county. Commissioner Ken Miner suggested adding details to the proposed easement agreement that would outline responsibilities for such things as washouts and culverts. Cheney added that even though the county receives $3,000 a mile from state fuel taxes, that doesnít cover the cost per mile of maintaining the Williams Creek Road.
The group discussed different agreement alternatives along with the fact the Forest Service uses the road for timber management and the new Fish Hatchery. The commissioners and Cheney said they will give the proposal some thought and the Forest Service will do more research with results to be delivered by August 28.
Following the official Fiscal Year 2015-16 Budget public hearing on September 1, it was decided that the county will stick with the Schedule A road agreement currently in place between the county and the Forest Service.
Prior to the hearing date Kean had reported by way of email that he had researched Forest Service road easements in general as well as the agreement in place on Williams Creek Road. He said that the easement experts he consulted said easements are difficult to alter and usually require counsel from attorneys or from the Office of the General Counsel which is an independent legal agency within the US Department of Agriculture.
Kean said he assumed that was a route that neither agency would wish to pursue and the County Commissioners agreed
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