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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow An easy answer on the Loop Road

An easy answer on the Loop Road

The U.S. Forest Service decided more than a year ago to spend as much as $5 million to repave 13 miles of the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road in northeastern Baker County.

Today, about 500 feet of that road no longer exists.

That section of the two-lane highway went downstream earlier this month, swept along by North Pine Creek.

The raging creek, one of several waterways that wreaked havoc on the county during one of the rainiest weeks in the past quarter century, also gashed away at least half the road’s width in four other places.

The road, which is a popular sightseeing route and a link between Baker and Wallowa counties, is closed indefinitely.

The question is whether the Forest Service should be able to use the $5 million to repair what floodwaters wrought.

That’s one of the easiest questions we’ve heard since the ‘Jeopardy!” kids tournament.

The correct answer, of course, is a simple “yes.”

We hope federal officials don’t take long in coming to that conclusion. They’ll be discussing the matter during a meeting Thursday, said Judy Wing of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Federal money is infamous, of course, for coming festooned with enough red tape to decorate every Christmas gift in the country, and draped with more strings than a yo-yo factory has.

But this situation could hardly be more straightforward.

If officials concluded that merely making the Loop Road smoother was worth $5 million, then making the road — literally making it from scratch — ought to pass muster too as a worthwhile use of the public’s money.

Although repair costs might exceed the $5 million allocated to repave the Loop Road, since the money we’re talking about has already been set aside to improve precisely the section of road that today is so much debris trickling down to Hells Canyon Reservoir, we urge federal officials to quickly release that $5 million to start the reconstruction.

Rebuilding a road that in essence has disappeared sounds to us like a pretty fair definition of “improvement.”

 
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