Logging to Resume as Work Ends on Highway 149 Paving

Colorado Dept. of Transportation’s 13-week asphalt overlay project on Highway 149 south of Lake City over Slumgullion Pass nearly to the summit of Spring Creek Pass ended on Thursday last week and, weather depending, timbering of beetle-killed spruce trees will recommence as early as late this week or early next week.

CDOT’s 14-mile Slum and Spring Creek asphalt project overseen by its contractor, Grand Junction-based United Companies, began on June 13 and concluded last Thursday, August 18, with minor finish details on the highway to continue through the first week of September.

According to CDOT highway engineer Paul Granahan, remaining work on the Highway 149 project includes installation of 390’ of newly designed guardrail on the Lake Overlook curve which meets new state standards for minimum 31” height. The new railing was installed by Gonzales Construction starting Monday this week, replacing the lower, older guardrail, and buttressed with stout I-beams sunk into the ground on the sharp Highway 149 curve.

According to Highway Engineer Granahan, finish work on the 14-mile stretch of Highway 149 entails adding 2’-wide gravel shoulders extending out from the new asphalt, scheduled to occur August 24-26, along with installation of new double-height delineator posts.

As a final item, CDOT will apply a coat of epoxy paint for center and highway-edge lines on September 6-7.

As summer-long highway improvements on Highway 149 south of Lake City now wind down, timbering of towering dead spruce trees killed by the bark beetle epidemic will once again ramp up.

According to Norm Birtcher, Resource Forester for Montrose Forest Products, contractor Perry Brandt is returning to Lake City as early as Friday, August 26, or next Monday, August 29, to finish felling a total of 12 acres of dead conifers which overhang the upper side of Highway 149 in the vicinity of the intersection of 149 and the Cebolla Road down to Deer Lakes.

Contractor Brandt had been at work on the Highway 149 Stewardship timber sale up until early spring this year, after which timbering took an intermission because of ground conditions. Montrose Forest Products’ Birtcher says Hinsdale County Commissioners were concerned that timber trucks plus increased OHV traffic, in addition to Colorado Dept. of Transportation’s 14-mile resurfacing project on Slumgullion Pass, was “not a good mix” and asked for the timber company to delay a restart of timber cutting until after the highway resurfacing project was completed.

Timber to be removed and processed at Forest Products’ sawmill in Montrose is the final phase of the Highway 149 Stewardship Contract overseen by contractor Brandt which began last year and removed a swath of dead timber on either side of Highway 149 at the summit of Slumgullion Pass. The 12 acres of dead timber above the highway amounts to approximately 70,000-board feet, according to Birtcher, and covers a distance on the up-side of the highway from the curve just below the Deer Lakes Road intersection on the Lake Fork side of the pass, continuing up and over the pass past the summit and as far as a sharp curve to the south.

Birtcher says the limited amount of dead timber to be felled and accessed by a temporary skid road access to be constructed above the highway, will require only a few days’ work but is highly weather dependent. Recent rains have saturated the steep hillside, making it improbable that timbering work will commence until after the ground dries. Because of the steepness of the terrain, Birtcher says the trees will be hand-felled. Cut trees will then be dragged along the temporary skid road to a series of access points along Highway 149 where the cut trees will be loaded onto the log trucks for transport to the Montrose saw mill.

In addition to the last phase of the highway timbering, which Birtcher says will be “completed in a matter of days” once it starts, Montrose Forest Products is also restarting removal of beetle-killed timber on other Lake City area timber tracts, including completion later this winter of the 263-acre Rambo Salvage — located east of Rambouillet Creek between Slumgullion and Spring Creek Passes, 2,305 MBF (thousand board feet) — and 259-acre Mill Creek II Salvage (east of Deer Lakes Campground, 2,728 MBF).

Other timber work on Slumgullion Pass by contractor Brandt for Montrose Forest Products includes 1,816,000 board feet of dead spruce which will be harvested from a timber sale site known as Extra Salvage which is located above Highway 149 on the Cebolla side of Slumgullion Pass.

Montrose Forest Products is also starting up and concluding a variety of timber sales on Black Mountain. To be completed later this winter are the Mater and Jasmine Beetle Salvage tracts (respectively 34 acres, 67 MBF, and 242 acres, 1,492 MBF), while two new sale tracts will commence on Black Mountain, Dash Beetle Salvage, 518 acres, 3,923 MBF, and Pluto Beetle Salvage, 483 acres, 3,513 MBF. Both Dash and Pluto timber sales will start this fall, continue through winter until March, and then resume to finish later in 2017.

Contractors for Montrose Forest Products on both Slumgullion Pass and Black Mountain will transport timber on logging trucks to the Montrose sawmill facility on Highway 149 via Lake City.

Norm Birtcher says the ramping up of logging truck traffic through Lake City will start gradually with several trucks per day starting this fall and will increase to as many as 25 trucks per day passing through town after Thanksgiving and continuing through winter.

As part of the logging process, contractors will once again create slash piles of tree boughs and small-dimension timber which will be left on site. Non-accessible piles will be burned by the Forest Service, while more accessible slash piles will be available to firewood gatherers with permit after the timber sales are completed.