Alternative E for Middle Fork Snoqualmie Environmental Health & Recreation (WA)
Snoqualmie Ranger District
42404 SE North Bend Way
North Bend, WA 98045
May 7, 2002
RE: Environmental Assessment for the proposed Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Watershed Access Travel Management Plan
Dear Mr. Schrenk:
American Whitewater endorses the preferred Alternative E because it holds the best promise for improving the quality and health of the river ecosystem while providing for paddler experiences throughout the watershed. American Whitewater is a non-profit organization representing more than 8,000 members and over 100 affiliate clubs nationwide. Our mission is to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.
The Middle Fork Snoqualmie is one of the most popular destinations for Seattle-area paddlers from the cascades upstream of the Burntboot Creek confluence to the town of North Bend, and recreational opportunities abound along the tributary streams of the Pratt and Taylor Rivers and Dingford Creek.
While most whitewater paddlers take advantage of paddling opportunities downstream from the National Forest boundary (particularly the section from the Concrete Bridge to SE Tanner Road, popularly known as the "Middle-Middle" section), we recognize that management of upstream areas has a direct impact on the quality of the resource downstream. In addition, sections of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and its tributaries located within the National Forest, offer a range of experiences suitable for novice paddlers to the country's top experts. Paddlers access the river both above and below the Taylor River confluence and this usage continues to increase given the growth of the sport and the accessibility of the river to the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area. Paddlers enjoy the river year around but peak use is from the start of winter rains (typically late October) to the end of late-season snow melt (as late as mid-July).
We support several key components of the preferred alternative:
1) Closure of spur roads
Closing all spur roads that currently provide vehicle access to sensitive riparian areas and to river gravel bars will improve current environmental conditions. Off-road vehicle use in these areas has created significant sediment delivery problems and degraded the riparian habitat. We support the idea of converting these spur roads to day-use areas with pullouts along the road for parking and developing foot trails to the river. In developing day-use areas at River Bend, Pratt River Bar, Camp Brown, and other dispersed sites, we encourage you to create suitable foot access to the river for those wishing to launch a hand-carry craft, such as a kayak or canoe. Identifying launch points at these sites would enable managers to locate access in areas less prone to bank erosion and minimize disturbance to riparian vegetation. Our members from the Seattle area would be happy to meet with Forest Service staff in planning these river access points.
2) Closure of FR 56 above Dingford Creek
While reduced road access to areas above Dingford Creek will limit easy access to upper areas of the watershed, the preferred alternative still preserves paddling opportunities in this reach for those willing to hike in and represents an effective balance between user access and protection of the resource. We recognize that the continued maintenance of this chronically eroded road cannot be justified due to the cost and impact on aquatic resources. Sediment delivery problems and mass wasting events represent both an impact to the river resource and become a serious safety issue. There are several places on National Forest lands where consistent failure of poorly engineered road results in anthropogenic debris (blown culverts, bridge debris, rebar, etc.) that has resulted in serious injury and fatality. The preferred alternative effectively addresses both the safety and sediment delivery issue by decommissioning those sections of road most prone to flooding and failure.
3) Recognition of Wild and Scenic Qualities of these rivers
The Middle Fork Snoqualmie, Taylor, and Pratt Rivers have all been recommended for designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This river possesses extraordinary recreational opportunities, scenic values, and water quality. The management actions proposed in the preferred alternative will significantly reduce sediment run-off resulting from off-road vehicle use in erosion-prone areas, decrease potential for unnaturally elevated levels of sediment loading, improve overall habitat conditions and preserve the scenic qualities of the river corridor. In addition, the proposed reduction of land area suitable for timber harvest from 5703 acres to 2473 acres will limit the potential future impacts to the river corridor. This will further enhance the unique ecological and recreational attributes of these rivers that continue to recover from harvest activities during the last century.
The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie and its tributaries has high ecological and recreation value that is enjoyed by our members living in the region. The preferred alternative E will maintain and enhance these values for them, for visiting paddlers, and for future generations of paddlers and other river users. We strongly support the efforts of the Forest Service to present a strong and effective management plan that balances access considerations with improving the quality of this treasured resource.
AW Board Member
AW Washington Regional Coordinator