Tag Archives: North Fork Road

Feds won’t fund North Fork Road paving study

North Fork Road in Fall - USFS
North Fork Road in Fall – USFS

The expected result, but still good to know for certain . . .

Flathead County did not receive federal funding for an environmental analysis to look at paving a portion of the North Fork Road, county public works director Dave Prunty confirmed Monday.

The county sought Federal Lands Access Program monies to do a National Environmental Policy Act review of improving the road from just north of Glacier Rim to the Camas Road entrance to Glacier National Park earlier this year, but the analysis wasn’t funded.

Continue reading . . .

County seeks federal funding to potentially pave lower North Fork Road

North Fork Road in Fall - USFS
North Fork Road in Fall – USFS

In case you missed it . . .

Flathead County applied for funding, which they more or may not get, to pay for a study on whether or not the lower North Fork Road could be paved.

Heading north out of Columbia Falls towards the North Fork corridor along the Flathead River is one of the most scenic, enjoyable drives in Northwest Montana, that is, until just after mile post 12, where the pavement ends. Then drivers and passengers are subjected to a slow, teeth-rattling and dusty ride in order to access two popular entrances to Glacier National Park, more than 100,000 acres of national forest land and the Wild and Scenic North Fork Flathead River.

That may change in the next few years, however, as Flathead County recently applied for a nearly $6 million Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to begin the preliminary environmental evaluation and public involvement process looking at the feasibility of paving 10 miles of the North Fork Road to the intersection of Camas Road. The funding would also cover roughly two-and-a-half miles of road improvements as a first phase of the full corridor improvement project.

The North Fork Road (NFR) stretches from the north end of Columbia Falls to the Canadian border, passing from state to county jurisdiction just past mile post 12, where it transitions from pavement to a gravel road. Other than a brief half-mile of pavement, there is a 10-mile stretch of dirt road until the intersection with Camas Road, a turnoff that leads to Glacier National Park.

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North Fork Road improvement project takes another step forward

North Fork Road, March 17, 2016 - W. K. Walker
North Fork Road, March 17, 2016 – W. K. Walker

It’s official now: If everything falls into place, we could see quite a bit of road work in the neighborhood within a couple of years . . .

The Flathead County Commission voted unanimously on March 24 to move forward with a proposed project among the county and federal partners to rehabilitate the North Fork Road.

The project, part of the Montana Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), seeks to make improvements to the road, which serves as an access point for about 300 residents and thousands of recreationists each year.

FLAP was established to improve transportation routes that provide access to, are adjacent to, or located within federal lands. The program supplements state and local resources for public roads and transit systems. The North Fork project is still in the application phase.

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County hopes for big improvements to North Fork Road in 2018

North Fork Road, March 17, 2016 - W. K. Walker
North Fork Road, March 17, 2016 – W. K. Walker

A good summary of the county’s plans for the North Fork Road, if they can get the money . . .

A $1.6 million federal grant proposal to improve the North Fork Road from Polebridge to the Canadian border will likely be submitted by April 4, Flathead National Forest officials said last week.

In a presentation to the county commissioners, forest staff officer Gary Danczyk said that if the grant is awarded, the project likely would not begin until 2018 or 2019.

Officials from the U.S. Border Patrol and Glacier National Park, which are also included in the application, also spoke in support of the grant proposal.

Read more . . .

Meeting about road draws North Fork crowd

Debo Powers sent in this report on the traffic management meeting at the Columbia Falls city hall last week . . .

On January 28, many North Fork winter residents braved a foggy morning and icy roads to drive to Columbia Falls to attend a 9:00 am meeting at the Columbia Falls City Hall where officials would be discussing paving the North Fork Road to Camas Creek. North Forkers on both sides of the issue attended the meeting, but no one from the audience was allowed to speak.

Participating in the discussion was Montana State Senator Dee Brown, Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia, Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell, Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhardt, Public Works Director Dave Prunty, and Flathead County Road and Bridge Superintendent Ovila Byrd.

The officials discussed traffic congestion that will occur in 2017 when the new bridge over the South Fork is constructed on Highway 2 near Hungry Horse. Although a temporary bridge will carry traffic, the construction will most likely cause delays in travel. The two detours that were discussed were the North Fork Road to Blankenship Road or the North Fork Road to Camas Creek Road.

Since a proposal to pave the North Fork Road to Camas Creek would have to clear many legal and procedural hurdles, as well as major opposition from many landowners and conservation groups, paving the road by 2017 to provide a detour for construction on Highway 2 is not a viable option. However, the meeting showed that the paving issue is still alive and well in many people’s minds. The North Fork Preservation Association, founded in 1982 to oppose paving the North Fork Road, has vowed to fight any proposal to pave any section of the road.

Information about the road and other North Fork issues will be presented at the Winter Interlocal Meeting on February 17.

Park reiterates opposition to North Fork Road paving and concerns over rail shipments

Jeff Mow, Superintendent of Glacier National Park, reiterated the park’s opposition to North Fork Road paving and expressed a lot of concern over the safety of oil shipments along the park’s boundary . . .

Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow said last week he is not in favor of paving the North Fork Road to the Camas Road, a project strongly supported by Columbia Falls city officials.

The goal of paving the North Fork Road has been debated for years, but now Columbia Falls business and civic leaders are pitching the idea not only to boost tourist traffic through town but as an emergency route for West Glacier in case of a rail disaster.

City leaders told Sen. Jon Tester on March 20 that the Park supports paving the North Fork Road, but Mow disagreed.

Read more . . .

Pro-paving letter misquotes water quality study

It seems we can’t let a month go by without saying something about the road.

Anyway, if you are going to use science to support your position, it’s best to ensure you’re using it properly or you run the risk of annoying an actual scientist. A recent letter to the editor in the Hungry Horse News promoting paving the North Fork Road drew the ire of Jack Potter for editorial misuse of an out-of-context quote. Jack, Glacier Park’s former chief of science and resource management, sent the following response . . .

Dear Editor,

A disturbing trend is the misuse of scientific information through misquoting, taking something out of context, or altering text on the internet and/or in the press.  In his letter to the editor, Ray Brown of a “pave the North Fork Road” group in the annual spring offensive, says to support his contention that road dust is polluting the North Fork, thus paving is necessary:

“In addition, according to the 2007-2008 U.S. Geological Survey of water quality in the North Fork of the Flathead River, co-author E. William Schweiger, Ph.D. ecologist, Rocky Mountain Network, National Park Service, wrote in part that nearly all of the major western tributaries of the North Fork have previously been listed on Montana’s 303d list of impaired streams for cold-water fisheries owing to sediment-loading associated with erosion of unpaved roads.”

Ray goes on to say:

“This last finding in interesting in that our own Glacier National Park superintendent, who should have had access to the survey, either never got the memo or disregarded it out of hand. Perhaps the best way for the Park to address an issue like water and air quality along their western boundary is to pretend there is no problem to begin with.”

In fact taken in context Dr. Schweiger and his coauthors say:

“Clear-cut timber harvesting activity was relatively widespread in the western tributaries of the North Fork Basin in Montana from 1960 to 2000 (Gildea and others, 2004). Currently (2011), nonintensive timber harvesting occurs throughout the Flathead National Forest on the western side of the North Fork Basin (Paul Donnellon, Operations – Timber Management Flathead National Forest, written commun., 2011). Additionally, population growth and related construction activities on private land in the western portion of the basin are of concern. Construction of access roads associated with residential development, and subsequent erosion of road material, can be a substantial source of suspended sediment to streams (Ahtiainen and Huttunen, 1999; Gildea and others, 2004). Waste material from forest harvesting and sewage effluent from residential developments can cause an increase in the concentrations of nutrients in receiving streams, resulting in a reduction in biodiversity and loss of species habitat (Harr and Fredriksen, 1988; Zampella, 1994; Carpenter and others, 1998; Hauer and others, 2007). Suspended sediment in spawning areas can cause a reduction in fish embryo survivorship (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 2004).

Nearly all of the major western tributaries of the North Fork have been previously listed on Montana’s 303(d) list as impaired for cold-water fisheries owing to sediment loading associated with erosion of unpaved roads. Adoption of “Best Management Practices” for timber harvesting and forestry roads in the North Fork Basin, as well as reclamation of clear-cut areas, has greatly reduced the associated effects on water quality (Hauer and others, 2007). As a result, many of the western tributaries have been removed from Montana’s 303(d) list (Gildea and others, 2004). Existing and potential future residential development in the North Fork valley also is of concern. The western portion of the North Fork Basin in Montana has become increasingly popular as a vacation destination, and construction of vacation homes on private land in the North Fork valley has increased by about tenfold over the past 20 years (Hauer and others, 2007). These developments could affect the water quality and aquatic biology of the North Fork.”

The study doesn’t even come close to supporting Ray’s position, nor his fatuous statement about the park Superintendent.

If you  are interested in increasing your property values, maybe developing some of those hundreds of lots, or if you are a transplanted suburbanite living in Polebridge and want a smoother, faster commute, or you have a construction company in the North Fork as Ray Brown does, it would be better to be honest about paving.  Slow down, drive less.  With the uncertainty regarding the federal (dominion) coal blocks in the North Fork that were left out of the BC/Montana energy development moratorium, paving and subsequent development would be a great message to Canada, in addition to a long-term, irreversible, negative impact.  The National Park Service is correct in opposing paving.

Full citation of the above article:

From p. 2; Mills, T.J., Schweiger, E.W., Mast, M.A., Clow, D.W., 2012, Hydrologic, water-quality, and biological characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River, Montana, water years 2007–2008: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5221, 67 p.

Jack Potter
Columbia Falls, MT

Note: Jack Potter’s letter appeared on the Hungry Horse News web site almost immediately.

Flathead County going after road money for Blacktail and North Fork roads

While the North Fork Road rests under its winter pavement, Flathead County is making plans for improvements  .  .  .

Flathead County plans to vie for money from a restructured federal highway program to make improvements to Blacktail and North Fork roads.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act — MAP-21 — that was signed into law in July will fund surface transportation programs at more than $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Montana’s slice of the federal pie will be $50 million over the two years.

Blacktail Road in Lakeside, the road leading to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, is a prime contender…

A second proposed project is conducting an engineering analysis and making improvements to the stretch of the North Fork Road north of Polebridge in the Wurtz Slump area…

Continue reading . . .