Olympic Hot Springs Road Long-Term Access/Environmental Assessment
Olympic National Park is preparing an Environmental Assessment for Olympic Hot Springs Road (OHSR) long-term access. The road has experienced multiple washouts since the completion of the dam removal project in 2014. The Elwha Valley is one of the most visited areas within Olympic National Park and the OHSR provides the only vehicular access into the Elwha Valley. A public meeting, to initiate civic engagement and solicit feedback on preliminary alternative concepts, has been scheduled for Thursday, December 13, 2018. Please see the "Meeting Notices" link for further information.
The purpose of the project is to rehabilitate the 8.2 mile Olympic Hot Springs Road (also known as the Elwha Valley Road) within Olympic National Park to ensure public and administrative access to visitor use areas within the Elwha Valley. The rehabilitated roadway would provide year-round, vehicular access to the Elwha Ranger Station and Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook, and seasonal access to the Whiskey Bend Road and upper Olympic Hot Springs Road. This access would continue to serve several popular trailheads and private lands. Park staff would also continue to use the road to maintain trails and other facilities, operate the Ranger Station and access the pack stock operations area, park maintenance area, and Elwha Ranger Station Historic District. The park's General Management Plan and Elwha River Ecosystem Restoration Implementation Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) call for continued public vehicular access to this area of the park. Actions to monitor, evaluate, and adaptively manage ecosystem recovery require vehicle access.
Under the proposal, providing safer, more reliable public and administrative access to the Elwha Valley would include relocating and/or reconstructing approximately one mile of roadway between Sanders Creek and the Elwha Ranger Station, where frequent, severe flooding and flood damage has occurred over the past four years. This damage has repeatedly cut off access to important and popular visitor destinations, including viewpoints overlooking the Elwha River restoration area. Improving the road to become a sustainable, more easily maintained roadway with reduced annual maintenance costs is key to the success of this proposal.
Resurfacing, subgrade stabilization, constructing walls, improving culverts/drainage, and other necessary work would restore the roadway, shoulders, sideslopes, culverts, bridges, and other features to functional or structural adequacy, while reducing the need for unscheduled maintenance. Roadway improvements would also be implemented to maximize environmental sustainability while reducing impacts to park resources, including the Elwha River floodplain and associated rare, threatened, and endangered species habitats.
Below the Elwha Ranger Station, the project would provide continued long-term access while minimizing effects on the floodplain. The project would also rehabilitate the roadway to minimize long-term maintenance costs. The overall intent is to cost-effectively restore the roadway to good condition, by relocating or reconstructing a portion of the lower roadway away from the damaging effects of channel migration; allowing the remainder to be able to withstand occasional inundation; and rehabilitating the upper segment of roadway to reduce maintenance needs. The project is not intended to create a flood-proof roadway. Under the proposed project, portions of the roadway would remain within the floodplain and would continue to be subject to future flood damage. Reconstruction is intended to reduce the potential for flood damage to affect the one-mile portion between Sanders Creek and the Elwha Ranger Station. Flood damage would be less frequent and/or less likely to result in long-term closures of this portion of the roadway.
Lisa Turecek, Chief of Facilities Maintenance