Forest Service updates on projects
July 11, 2019
District Ranger Mike Gosse provided an update on current Forest Service activities to the county commissioners last week, beginning with the Cook Lake dam project that began on Monday. The new concrete dam that is to be installed will withstand a 200-year flood event, he said, which is a definite improvement on the old, failing dam that has been in place for 60 years.
When questioned as to the stability of the site – bearing in mind that one of the largest landslides in the county is hanging over the lake – Gosse nodded that the west side of the area is “real unstable”.
“We haven’t seen any large increases,” he reassured the commission, though “it is still moving”.
The largest movement that has been recorded by the ground sensors during this unusually wet spring and summer, Gosse said, was 18 inches in one day.
According to Gosse, the Forest Service is not sure what will happen when the water level is lowered for the project and whether the change in pressure could cause the hill to slide.
Speaking to other elements of the project, Gosse stated that a forest closure order is in place and the road will be gated until mid-November to prevent public access while construction is taking place. The state is looking to treat the remaining water in the lake once it has been partially drained, he said, to kill off some of the undesirable fish before a restock takes place in the spring.
Gosse also reported that the Western Forest Legacy Project to acquire around 4600 acres of land in the Grand Canyon of the Black Hills, adjacent to current Forest Service land, is still in progress. If it does not go through, he said, there is potential for housing development to occur in the area, which could cause issues with fire protection on the forest/private land boundary, so he is hopeful an agreement can be reached.
Elsewhere in the Forest, Gosse said that wet trail conditions are “certainly creating some havoc”. Right now, all Forest Service roads in Crook County are open, he said, but the wet conditions are causing rutting and some damage from public use, so the roads are being monitored in case there is a need for closure.
Moisture and rain are also causing issues with pasture, Gosse said. Some of the upper pastures have less forage than usual thanks to the cooler weather so, unless the temperatures increase, the Forest Service may be asking some ranchers to remove their cows early this year.