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RAC allocates $700,000 for projects

| September 12, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

A total of $93,000 has been allocated to finish a water quality improvement project on the east fork of Pipe Creek.

Improvements to the Koocanusa Marina access road and improvements to the Silver Butte road also were authorized Tuesday by the Lincoln County Resource Advisory Committee.

The group put its stamp of approval on nearly three dozen projects in the Libby, Three Rivers and Rexford/Fortine ranger districts for fiscal year 2006. The total cost is $700,000.

The money comes from the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides funding to counties with national forest lands.

The Pipe Creek work is intended to repair existing sediment sources for improved spawning conditions in the east fork, and the main stem of Pipe Creek below the confluence of the east fork. Culverts will be removed and 45 stream channel crossings will be rebuilt.

The project also includes five in-stream channel repairs in what is a priority bull trout restoration watershed, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The RAC approved $64,000 for phase two of the Silver Butte road upgrade. Work begins at the junction of the East Fisher Road and runs 6.6 miles to the junction of Road 2220, just past the Baree Lake trailhead.

Culvert work, installation of drain dips, surface water deflectors, and reconditioning of the roadbed is involved.

The road accesses many popular trailheads, according to Kootenai National Forest officials.

"People pulling horse or camp trailers sometimes have a difficult time reaching their destination without doing damage to their trailers," the project description says. "The project would improve the county road to a reasonable standard so that vehicles pulling small trailers can access at least up to the Baree Lake trailhead."

Erosion control work also is planned to keep sediment from

reaching the adjacent Silver Butte Creek.

RAC members gave $7,700 for improvements on the South Flower Creek cross-country ski course, and $8,000 to re-photograph 20 historic points in the Libby Ranger District that were established in the 1920s. The photo project is intended to illustrate changes to the forest understory and overstory during the last 80 years.

On Three Rivers Ranger District, the group voted to redirect $50,000 in funding to improve infrastructure at the Mt. Henry Lookout. District Ranger Mike Balboni said that money was allocated by the RAC for use in 2005 to build a shooting range.

However, the Forest Service ruled that RAC funds cannot be used for new construction so the range has been put on hold, he said. Money has been secured to do the NEPA study this fall, Balboni said, and grants for the shooting range will be sought after that.

Other projects getting a go-ahead on the Three Rivers Ranger District include a Spruce Lake bike trail, West Troy fuel reduction and weed control, Garver and Obermayer weed control, Solo Joe Bridge repair, and funding for Youth Conservation Corps.

On Rexford/Fortine, the RAC approved noxious weed and fuel reduction projects, Branch Bridge repair, and Red Bear fuel wood which provides firewood for local residents who can't go out and cut it for themselves.

Lincoln County Commissioner Marianne Roos of Eureka applauded the mix of projects getting funding in her district.

"That will create a lot of jobs and forest health," she said.