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Aug. 19, 2022

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Gifford Pinchot, Gorge get infrastructure aid

By , Columbian staff writer

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Columbia River Gorge are among multiple natural areas in Washington to receive required funding for delayed infrastructure improvements.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday it will allocate $16.8 million to land projects in the Pacific Northwest, as part of the Great American Outdoors Act.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., co-sponsored the measure, which supplies up to $1.9 billion a year for five years to fund National Park Service repairs and maintenance. The legislation, passed in 2020, funnels revenue from energy development and collects funding for land and water conservation through offshore oil and gas royalties.

The legislation helps relieve a nationwide backlog of public land repairs. A national park’s annual funding stream cannot always fix and replace its infrastructure, which leads to a growing list of deferred restorations, according to the National Park Service.

Funding will address 11 infrastructure projects between multiple Southwest Washington natural lands: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the National Forest Service’s area in Grays Harbor.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Forest Road 25, a damaged 21-mile stretch through Lewis and Skamania counties, is slated to be repaired, and its Huffaker Bridge will be replaced. Multiple trail bridges in the forest are anticipated to be restored.

A new underground electric service will be installed in La Wis Wis Campground in Lewis County, and its water and plumbing systems will be replaced. The Johnston Ridge Observatory at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Skamania County will receive a fire system and theater restorations, as well as energy conservation upgrades. Klickitat County’s Mount Adams Ranger District at Trout Lake will also be improved.

Columbia River Gorge

Restrooms at St. Cloud and Herman Creek recreation will be upgraded to increase accessibility and lessen the frequency of facilities’ overdue maintenance. Crews will reconstruct the Coyote Wall Recreation Area while also closing user-created trails in the area. The Dog Mountain trailhead will be relocated to reduce congestion and improve trail safety.

A bridge crossing will be installed over East Fork Woodard Creek on Keuffler Road to restore the fish passage in the water channel.

Grays Harbor

Postponed maintenance on signs, a picnic table and a kiosk will be addressed, as well as accessibility upgrades and a fire ring installation.

Infrastructure in the lush, forested areas aren’t the first projects in Southwest Washington to receive funding from the Great American Outdoors Act. In March, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site announced its $15.2 million federal award would be used to revitalize its double infantry barracks, Building 993.

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