By JAYSON JACOBY
A short section of a popular forest road in the Wallowa Mountains that's been closed since it was damaged by landslides in June 2010 will be repaired this year.
But that section of Eagle Creek Road, Forest Road 77, will be closed for the third consecutive summer.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has hired JAL Construction Inc. of Bend to fix the gravel road. The contract is for $674,744.
Work could start in early June, and should be finished by this fall, according to a press release from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, which maintains the road.
All of the washouts happened along the approximately 5-mile section of Road 77 between East Eagle Creek and Tamarack Campground.
Road 77 has been open each of the past two summers on either side of the closure area, so the main effect on travelers is that some have had to make detours.
For instance, drivers coming Richland or Halfway, east ofEagle Creek, must go aroundthe closure to get to Tamarack Campground, Boulder Park, West Eagle Meadow or continue on Road 77 to its western end at Catherine Creek Summit on Highway 203.
Travelers from the opposite direction face the same detour if they want to get to the trailheads along East Eagle Creek Road or to McBride Campground.
Road 77 is the main thoroughfare along the southern fringe of the Wallowas between Highway 203 and Highway 86. The road's eastern end is along the latter highway, near the summit of the Halfway Grade between Halfway and Richland.
Because the washouts happened on a section of the road built across steep slopes, the repairs require considerable engineering. This prompted the FHA to take over the project from the Wallowa-Whitman, said Matthew Burks, public affairs officer for the forest.
"It's a very difficult project," Burks said in an earlier interview. "There has been a lot of geotechnical drilling, and the repair will require construction of a retaining wall."