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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow And now we wait

And now we wait

Baker County’s floodwaters have begun to recede, and now begins the wait on various bureaucracies.

We hope it’s a short one.

Although the extent of the damage can’t be tallied until the ground dries, it’s obvious that federal and state aid, both financial and technical, would help to salve the economic sting of the county’s worst flooding in more than a decade.

First, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest will need help — and potentially millions of dollars — to repair sections of the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road between Halfway and Joseph.

Swollen North Pine Creek chewed off at least half the roadway in four places, and in another the entire two-lane paved highway in essence disappeared.

The Loop Road is a popular recreation route and part of the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway. The byway is also one of Oregon’s few All-American Roads.

Several other forest roads, including ones in the Eagle Creek recreation area, were damaged by high water, as well.

Second, Baker County’s largest industry, agriculture, has sustained as yet unknown losses.

At a minimum, hay production in Eagle and Pine valleys will be reduced.

Floodwaters also damaged floodgates on several irrigation ditches.

The effects spread much farther, though, than the Wallowa Loop Road and the farming and ranching business.

Baker County, for instance, needs to replace two bridges in Pine Valley, one over Clear Creek, the other over Pine Creek.

And the Oregon Department of Transportation will have to fix a washed out section of the road leading from Pine Valley to Cornucopia.

Also, sections of both Clear and Pine creeks are designated as critical habitat for the bull trout, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Rehabilitating flood-damaged habitat for the fish is likely to be an expensive proposition.

And although it’s impossible to make any stream flood-proof, it would be ideal if engineers could devise a way to simultaneously restore habitat for bull trout and reduce the risk that Pine and Clear creeks will wreak so much havoc the next time late spring brings weather that’s more than just slightly soggy.

 
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