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BPA repairing damaged hiking trail along Kootenai River

| October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Bonneville Power Administration by today expects to complete repairs to a Kootenai River hiking and biking trail damaged by surveyors' vehicles.

The project has involved applying gravel and rock to a total of 2 miles along a 5-mile stretch between Libby and Troy. The trail, which begins at the west end of Kootenai River Road, remained open during construction, said Carrie Reese, public affairs specialist for BPA.

The work began nearly three weeks ago.

Surveyors hired by BPA for a project to rebuild a 17-mile-long section of its 115-kilovolt Libby-Bonners Ferry line damaged the trail last spring, said Tish Eaton, an environmental specialist with BPA. The power company would like to improve the aging line to meet needs for future growth.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, which owns the land, asked BPA to repair the trail, which is closed to motorized vehicles.

Surveyors had permission to drive on the trail to access BPA lines.

"They drove on the road when it was wet and ruts were formed," Eaton said. "It made the road unsafe for bicyclists."

"We were not in the wrong for being there," she continued. "The line is about to fall down. It's in really bad shape and it needs to be rebuilt."

A Libby contractor did the work. The contractor first laid a fabric used in road construction.

"We covered that with gravel and rock to give the road a nice base," Eaton said. "It meant quite a few trucks, an excavator and other vehicles out there."

As for the power line improvement project, BPA continues to work on the environmental impact statement, Eaton said. It expects to release the results this November. BPA in December will hold public meetings in Libby for feedback and to discuss the statement.

BPA is expected to make a construction decision in 2007. If it does the project, BPA will begin the work in 2008, Eaton said.