Idaho Falls Citizen Journalism

Release Date: Sep 11, 2017  

Contact(s): Amy Baumer

Salmon, Idaho:  The U.S.D.A Forest Service, Salmon-Challis National Forest (Forest Service) and Lemhi County, Idaho (Lemhi County) have been engaging in discussions to address winter avalanche and snow removal emergencies on the Salmon River Road.  An emergency has been defined as any snow slide or avalanche condition that completely restricts access or the critical transport of residents to a health care facility.  These conditions would be assessed by both Forest Service and Lemhi County personnel prior to any emergency declaration. Recognizing that both the Forest Service and Lemhi County have limited resources, there is commitment on behalf of both parties to continue working together and to communicate capabilities and expectations.

The Forest Service and Lemhi County have reaffirmed their commitment to work together to address winter snow and avalanche removal emergencies on the Salmon River Road.   The Forest Service will continue being responsible for primary operations and maintenance of the Salmon River Road between April 1 and October 31 each year.  Routine maintenance will not occur between November 1 and March 31 each year.  As in the past, Lemhi County will continue to be responsible for snow removal as needed for River residents between November 1 and March 31, each year.  Priority would first be given to school bus routes and main roads.  During winter avalanche and snow removal emergencies, both the Forest Service and Lemhi County have agreed that either party may ask for assistance and will respond to the extent possible with available equipment and personnel.  Forest Service or County equipment may also be staged and shared as needed and available.  At any time, the Forest Service or Lemhi County may discontinue winter avalanche or snow removal activities if conditions are deemed unsafe.  Additionally, the North Fork District Ranger and Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor may need to suspend emergency avalanche and snow removal activities and administratively close the Salmon River Road until conditions improve.  “Public health and safety as well as the safety of our Forest and County employees is the number one priority,” said Ken Gebhardt, North Fork District Ranger, “if conditions are unstable and unsafe, an administrative closure will be put in place rather than put our employees and public at risk.” 

 It is also important to reaffirm annual Salmon River Road maintenance activities conducted by the Forest Service.  Each year the USFS plans to conduct four maintenance cycles on the Salmon River Road. This plan may change at any time based on funding and other priorities on the Forest.  The plan includes:

April or early May – One pass along the road to clear rocks from the road and ensure drainage is functioning.

May or June - Initial ditch cleaning, drainage work and road shaping in preparation for applying road stabilizer/dust abatement.

June or early July - Final shaping, compaction, and application of road stabilizer/dust abatement.

September or October - One pass with grader to smooth out wash boarding and developing potholes.

 The Forest Service and Lemhi County are committed to helping address winter avalanche and snow removal activities on the Salmon River Road.  It is important that residents of Lemhi County understand the current agreements between the Forest Service and Lemhi County, personnel and equipment limitations, and the importance of public and personnel safety during emergency operations.  Questions may be addressed to Ken Gebhardt, North Fork District Ranger or Brett Barsalou, Lemhi County Commissioner. 

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