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Wyden, Merkley Support Baker City Watershed Road Repairs

March 04, 2020

Oregon senators say federal fixes to Marble Creek Pass Road would improve emergency response, access to public lands in Eastern Oregon

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today urged federal officials to improve emergency response and access to public lands by fixing the only accessible route through the fire-prone Baker City watershed.

The Oregon senators’ letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen comes in support of Wallowa-Whitman National Forest officials’ request for capital improvement project funds to repair the Marble Creek Pass Road.

Wyden and Merkley noted in their letter that the road is the only publicly accessible route through the Baker City Watershed and that a high-intensity fire in the watershed — and the sediment that would generate in the city’s water system — would be catastrophic.

“In its current, mostly dilapidated state, the road cannot support large, dual-wheeled fire vehicles, restricts recreation access, and is a barrier to Baker City upgrading their pipeline,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “Given Marble Creek Pass Road’s current state of disrepair, both Baker City and Baker County leaders have expressed concerns about the potential for a high intensity wildfire in the community’s designated watershed and impacts to their water supply.

“Funds from the Capital Improvements Project and the subsequent restoration work would provide greatly needed access for hazardous fuels reduction treatments to reduce impacts from a large fire,” the senators wrote. “ 

Wyden and Merkley also wrote in their letter that restoration of the Marble Creek Road would not only support community and firefighter safety, but also improve access for recreation visitors to hike, bike and camp along the stunning Elkhorn Crest.

A copy of the letter is here.

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