When floodwaters washed away roads and trails, damaged campgrounds and forced the closure of this popular Pacific Northwest park earlier this month, officials there couldn’t begin to estimate the cost of the damage.
Now that they have, the numbers are sobering.
Park Supt. Dave Uberuaga said repairs would cost an estimated $29.85 million, the bulk of it -- $16 million -- to repair roads wiped out or weakened by water.
The park has been closed since Nov. 6, when 18 inches of rain fell in 36 hours, swamping roads and bridges, cutting power and sewer lines and forcing park officials to close the gates for the first time since nearby Mt. St. Helens’ massive eruption in May 1980.
The shutdown now marks the longest closure at Mt. Rainier since all national parks were closed during World War II.
“We could have more damage during the winter,” Uberuaga said. “Every culvert that’s plugged now could cause trouble when the snow melts next spring.”
National forests in Washington and Oregon also face extensive repairs, particularly the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which includes Mt. St. Helens, and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in Seattle’s backyard. North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park also saw roads washed away.
Fixing all the forest roads and trails that lace Washington’s flood-hammered mountains could cost more than $50 million
The Federal Highway Administration often pays to fix forest roads damaged in floods. But money for trails and campgrounds could be more scarce because that spending is usually part of annual budgets that take months to hammer out.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said securing money to repair Mt. Rainier would be his first priority in Congress.
Dicks is expected to chair the congressional committee responsible for spending in national parks and national forests when Democrats take control in January.