12.28 Big rigs’ proposed route follows federally designated scenic byway and river
- Posted by Trish Weber
Last Sunday saw a front page article in The Missoulian talking about the federal designation of Highway 12 as a scenic by-way.
...the Lochsa, Selway and Middle Fork of the Clearwater rivers were designated charter members of the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Sponsored by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, the act placed restrictions on development that would make the rivers tamer and not as scenic.
In subsequent decades, the stretch of Highway 12 from Lewiston to Lolo Pass was recognized first by the state of Idaho and, 10 years ago, by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a scenic byway. That means it possesses at least one of six “intrinsic qualities” - scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological and natural. In fact, the Northwest Passage National Scenic Byway has all six.
Since 2005, the highway has also belonged to the exclusive club of All-American Roads. Only 30 other scenic byways are judged to both possess more than one of the six intrinsic qualities and be tourist destinations unto themselves.
The article went on to cover much of the same ground already familiar to those fighting the mega-loads, i.e. the opposition of Linwood Laughy, Borg Hendrickson, et al, based on the megaloads being damaging to the intrinsic value of the route as a scenic destination in and of itself.
However, the ending paragraphs shone light on some interesting history - that of the role that the NFS played in granting easements on Highway 12 during its original designation. Bill Worf, a retired NFS executive, was called to Washington, D.C., to administer the Wild and Scenic Act as a special areas staffer for the chief of the Forest Service.
When Highway 12 was first built through the Clearwater National Forest in the 1960s, Worf said, easements restricted such things as the size of roadside turnouts. He doesn’t recall the length limit, but he’s sure the 300-foot-long turnouts needed to park the big rigs far surpass it.
“One of our concerns early on was we knew those wheat trucks were going to go through, but we wanted restrictions on the highway that were going to hold them to a reasonable size and speed,” he said.
Worf has implored the Forest Service to look at the easement agreement and to get involved in the big rig issue, to ensure the river and byway are protected.
Whoa! Somebody should definitely be looking at these easement agreements! Thanks for the tip, Mr. Worf.