Stimulus money gives boost

By Observer Upload March 29, 2013 10:36 am


Construction crews from Moffitt Bros. Construction work on road relocation on some property north of Wallowa. Courtesy photo
Construction crews from Moffitt Bros. Construction work on road relocation on some property north of Wallowa. Courtesy photo

Northeast Oregon sees job creation from $1.7 million in stimulus funds

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

WALLOWA — Job creation in Northeast Oregon got a big boost from $1.7 million in federal stimulus money used for habitat restoration on private land.

“These projects created jobs for 89 private forestry workers, contractors and consultants who would otherwise not have had employment,” said Rick Wagner, Oregon Department of Forestry field forester and biomass coordinator. 

Joe Hessel of the Oregon Department of Forestry in La Grande said local forest contractors benefited by getting a majority of the work.

Local foresters in Baker City, La Grande, Pendleton and Wallowa administered the projects from start to finish, in coordination with the landowners and contractors, said Hessel.

There were nine projects on nine different landowners in Union County for a total of $425,200 and 11 projects on 10 different landowners in Wallowa County for a total of $200,828. The remainder of the projects were located in Baker, Umatilla and Morrow counties for a total of $1,795,000 put on the ground, said Hessel.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant provided a true win-win-win situation,” Hessel said. “Through improvements to road systems on private land, the ecosystem benefited from fish passage improvements and sediment reduction, private landowners benefited from gaining better access for forest management activities, and the Oregon Department of Forestry benefited by gaining better access for fire suppression duties.” 

The U.S. Forest Service provided funding to the state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with the goal of improving stream health and fish habitat. The Northeastern Oregon projects were completed in 2011 and 2012, said Steve Meyer of the department’s Wallowa Unit.

State foresters in
La Grande reviewed 66 project proposals from private landowners. Of these, 38 projects were selected to receive funding for development, implementation and administration. Specific forestry projects completed recently include installation of 28 bridges and fish-friendly crossings, placement of 49 new drainage culverts, decommissioning of four to five miles of road, reconstructing 42 miles of road, creation of ponds for wildlife and livestock and more than 13,000 feet of bank enhancement.

Meyer said in Wallowa County contractors rerouted 4,500 feet of new road construction to get old roads up out of bottom and onto ridges to keep sediment from getting into streams. 

In addition, 5,000 feet of roads were decommissioned, or taken out of use, by pulling culverts, installing water bars and creating “tank traps” to prevent vehicle use. Road reconstruction was accomplished by applying rock, using cross drainages and rolling dips, Meyer said.