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BLM pursuing restoration work across Lane County.

Byline: Christian Wihtol The Register-Guard

As part of its summer construction program, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put a popular Coast Range campground out of bounds for the season to repair an old wooden pedestrian bridge.

The Whittaker Creek Campground, near Highway 126 and Siuslaw River Road, has been closed since Monday while workers install a new steel truss bridge that will provide walking access in the campground. The BLM said it won't reopen the campground until next spring.

The wooden bridge "has begun to show signs of rot," said BLM spokeswoman Jennifer Velez. The replacement will cost $173,000, the agency said.

The job is one of a number the BLM is pursuing across its sprawling, checkerboard terrain in the Lane County area this summer.

The agency also is repairing sections of Siuslaw River Road that were damaged during a flood in 2012. That work, totaling about $230,000, will be paid by a Federal Highway Administration fund dedicated for federally owned roads.

The road runs along the river, from the Lorane area northwestward, until it connects to Highway 126. The river's headwaters are just west of Cottage Grove.

Velez said crews will repair several sections of the popular recreation road and will build an earthen retaining wall along part of it. The road will be closed at Milepost 9 for up to three weeks, starting Monday, Velez said. After that, portions of the road will be restricted to single-lane traffic until the work is done by Sept. 7.

To improve fish habitat, the agency also is replacing two culverts in the Coast Range that carry waterways underneath roadways.

The work aims to make it easier for coho salmon, a species listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, to migrate up streams for spawning.

For example, an old metal culvert just off Siuslaw River Road will be replaced by a concrete bridge. Fish will have an easier time moving upstream under the bridge, compared with using the current culvert, Velez said.

Over time, water running out of a culvert will erode the streambed immediately downstream of the structure, making it ever harder for salmon to leap into the culvert and continue their swim upstream, Velez said.

The BLM has spent a lot of time and money making upstream Coast Range areas welcoming to threatened salmon and other nonlisted fish, Velez said.

Over the past 20 years, the work has included adding spawning gravel beds, putting boulders and logs in the river to aerate the water and provide resting zones for fish, replacing culverts and bridges to improve fish passage, and planting trees to stabilize banks and cool the water.

This summer the BLM also is replacing about 60 drain culverts across the Lane County area, at a cost of about $140,000. The small culverts, up to about 2 feet in diameter, are for drainage during the rainy season, rather than for fish passage, Velez said.

Follow Christian on Twitter @ChristianWihtol. Email christian.wihtol@registerguard.com.

MORE INFORMATION

For more about BLM projects and their impact on traffic: 541-683-6600

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Title Annotation:Local News; The federal agency's upgrades close the popular Whittaker Creek Campground in the Coast Range
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 16, 2014
Words:515
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