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Bad road hampers tree salvage effort

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The Delta County Commissioners Monday reached tentative agreement with the Forest Service and the Grand Mesa Resort Company (GMRC) on completing repair of a damaged road that has hampered removal of diseased spruce beetle trees.

A badly deteriorated half-mile section of road that runs along the north shore of Baron Lake on Grand Mesa is preventing the removal of felled trees infected with spruce beetle.

The resort company has been cutting hundreds of trees from its private property to help stop the spread of spruce beetle. The bad road has prevented the trees from being hauled off at a critical time of year when beetle larvae mature, become adults, and emerge and spread into new, healthy stands. The company turned to the Forest Service and county for help.

The section of road is one that the county and Forest Service share responsibility for maintaining. It was not on the county's maintenance list for this year, but it needs repairs, commissioners said.

Under the agreement that will be finalized in coming days, the county will provide 2,600 cubic yards of aggregate and the equipment to load it, place it, and compact it. The county will also provide equipment to install a stabilizing "geograde" fiber mat which will lay underneath the gravel.

The GMRC will provide trucks to haul gravel from the county's pit to the Baron Lake site.

The Forest Service will provide the geograde material and all engineering work and document preparation.

Total cost of the project is estimated at about $100,000. The county reckons the division of labor among the three parties will be an approximately even split in value.

Because the beetle-infected trees pose significant risks to forest health and safety whether standing or downed, Forest Service officials termed the road repair as an "urgent need."

The Forest Service's own spruce beetle action plan for public lands will be finalized later this summer, a district ranger said.

If spruce-infected trees are felled and the not removed they become brooding sites to hatch and spread a new generation of spruce beetles which infect and kill ever more trees in the forest.

A second request made of the BoCC at the Monday meeting was turned down by commissioners. A hauler the GMRC has hired to remove the hundreds of trees felled on private resort land is not able to obtain bonding for road damage that could potentially occur trucking trees over a 0.14-mile section of good pavement.

The Forest Service officials and GMRC asked the commissioners to act as the hauler's bonding agent so the trees could be removed. The county road department estimated it would cost up to $25,000 to replace the 0.14-mile-long road section if it were damaged by the hauling. Some 30 to 40 loads are estimated to be waiting for removal.

The commissioners explained they could not act as a bonding agent for the hauler in any event, and said they may even be prevented from doing so by law.

Besides being a source of spruce beetle brooding, dead tree are a fire hazard to private property like the GMRC cabins on Grand Mesa, thus lending a sense of urgency for getting the trees removed.

Dead and standing trees also are a fall hazard to vehicles, structures, power lines and humans.

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