Former logging road along Yale Reservoir scheduled to become a trail

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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COUGAR — The federal government has approved PacifiCorp's proposal for a 3.75-mile hiking-biking trail along the east shore of Yale Reservoir.

The utility's 50-year license to operate the three dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River requires the trail.

Todd Olson, PacifiCorp's director of compliance, said plans are to complete the environmental permit details, confirm right-of-way easements and finish assessments on culverts and other water-related issues this year.

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The schedule calls for receiving the necessary county, state and federal permits by the end of 2014 and have the trail built by the end of 2015.

The trail would follow the route of the former International Paper Co. log hauling road from the bridge across the North Fork of the Lewis River south to about the mid-point of Yale Reservoir.

The trail would end at a spot informally called "Canyon Washout,'' where several hundred feet of the road was removed completely in a debris flow during a January 2009 storm.

Plans call for the route to be 8 feet wide. Parking for 12 vehicles will be at the trailhead. There will be a trailhead toilet, picnic table and informational kiosk.

While the trail will be wide enough for two cyclists to pass, there will be places where riders will need to dismount at some stream crossings.

No motorized vehicle use will be allowed.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved PacifiCorp's plan on June 19.

Once regularly used by logging trucks, the old road has deteriorated significantly since 2004. Storms have destroyed multiple sections of the road and there are slumps, rockfall and other debris on the old pavement.

The road has been closed since 2008.

PacifiCorp. along with three consultants, examined the entire 10 miles of the former International Paper Co. road.

Weyerhaeuser and the Washington Department of Natural Resources both rejected requests for PacifiCorp to develop a trail across their respective lands for the trail, limiting its potential length.

"Our land-use goals include the safety of our employees and contractors has a high priority, minimizing encumbrances that may impact the management of our timberlands, and protecting our investments from fire, trespass and nuisance use of our property,'' responded Ross Graham, Weyerhaeuser's forest use land manager in Longview, in a 2010 letter. "I think you can understand that your proposal is not compatible with our resources goals and desired management flexibility over the long term.''

Washington DNR responded in 2011 that the road provides long-term forestry access to trust land in the Siouxon area.

"DNR will not release any of our current easement rights to use this right of way as a 'logging road' nor do we want to have a pedestrian trail on DNR managed trust land,'' according to a letter from the Pacific Cascade Region office in Castle Rock.