Seven Castles bridge in limbo
BASALT Local, state and federal agencies charged with figuring out what to do about a washed-out bridge near Basalt had yet to talk to one another as of Monday, although officials promised talks would begin soon.”Nobody’s called the Division of Wildlife that I know of,” said Kelly Wood of the DOW in Basalt.But Justin Finestone, public information official for Eagle County, said county engineers have called other agencies and are awaiting calls back.The main question to be resolved is what to do with a temporary emergency driveway that has been opened across DOW lands, as well as crossing federally owned land.The new drive, which apparently was first cut a decade ago after a similar washout, is now the only way that five households can get to their homes near Seven Castles Creek, a tributary of the Fryingpan River about five miles east of Basalt.The creek flooded in a sudden, early morning downpour on Aug. 6. The outflow from the flood washed out the bridge and sent a massive amount of mud and rocks into the confluence with the Fryingpan, changing the river’s channel. A similar flood reportedly occurred about a decade ago, forcing county and federal officials to create the emergency driveway and dredge out the river channel.The old bridge, likely dating to the mid-1990s, was the flatbed frame from an old rail car that had the wheels and any walls or other enclosure removed. Planks were then placed on the flatbed to smooth out the ride for cars. The bridge took traffic from Frying Pan Road, northward up a hill and across the creek, and up to five houses built in the area.Eagle County officials have said any new bridge probably would have to conform to standards incorporated into the county’s building codes in 2003, and the private landowners who use the bridge most likely would bear the cost.At least one Eagle County official, Emergency Management Coordinator Barry Smith, said recently that the county is trying to figure out a way to get access to the homes without forcing the homeowners to foot the bill for what would almost certainly be a very expensive replacement bridge.One idea, Smith said, is to make the temporary drive that bypasses the creek and the washed-out bridge into a permanent road.But Wood said that any such permanent use of DOW lands would require approval from her agency and possibly from the state Legislature, and would mean filing a formal application with the DOW regarding what the county wants, how the DOW’s agreement would affect the division and the public at large, and what the DOW could expect in return for giving up land it long held in the public’s interest.Meanwhile, Eagle County Engineer Eva Wilson said her department is working on setting up talks with the DOW and with the U.S. Forest Service, which also controls land affected by the flood and the temporary road.She said her office has been instructed to direct all questions from reporters to the county’s public information office, because “there’s so many players in that community. … We want to get the whole story and give it to you, not do it piecemeal.”A call to area wildlife manager Perry Will at the DOW was not returned on Monday. Sally Spaulding, a spokeswoman for the White River National Forest, said she had checked and not found any agency officials who had talked with Eagle County.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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