A decade later: Index-Galena Road remains a washout


By Frances Read

The Index-Galena Road that loops off Highway 2 through the Wild Sky Wilderness between Index and Skykomish washed out between mileposts 6.4 to 6.9 in a 2006 flood. Because of this closure, access to campgrounds, hiking trails, lookouts, river accesses and a few private residences along the North Fork Skykomish now requires a 40-mile detour up the Beckler Drainage and over Jack's Pass, a route often closed by snow during the winter. Locals and tourists alike have been waiting 10 years for the road to be repaired.

The broken stretch of road is considered a total loss with significant portions of pavement, roadbed and culverts damaged. Due to nature taking over, the blocked area has been called everything from apocalyptic to beautiful. The situation is a classic saga of man against nature that includes such subplots as economics, politics, engineering, tourism and government agencies.

Blair Corson of the Outdoor Adventure Center in Index has witnessed the effects the road closure has had on both his town and the area at large.

"We need to see action this year,GÇ¥ Corson said. "The effects of the decade-long Index-Galena Road closure has been detrimental to the local businesses of Index, primarily due to the lack of campgrounds and the visitors who come to enjoy them. The businesses who provide information, meals and resources for recreational visitors have been struggling along for years on the promise that Index-Galena will be reopened. The areas that have been cut off due to the damaged roadway were once popular destinations for both active and passive recreational activities ' for everything from scenic drives and photography, to river kayaking and hiking. At this point, the Wild Sky Wilderness is only accessible to the hardy mountaineer; not to the family who is out for a day hike or the couple enjoying a scenic drive. Without this regular use, the road has taken even more damage from lack of monitoring and maintenance.GÇ¥-á

The closure affects both Corson's livelihood and, he believes, future generations.

"The rafting industry as a whole has taken 10 years of damage from not being able to reach river put-in/launch locations, which are located beyond the damaged road section,GÇ¥ he said. "This loss is significant financially, but also from a stewardship perspective. Without access to preserved recreational areas and campgrounds, a generation loses sight of the value of it. It is unfortunate that an area so rich in history and beauty can no longer be enjoyed, and the local economy threatened due to the funding priorities of our county and government.GÇ¥

Ann Darlington, president of The Friends of Heybrook Ridge, a nonprofit supporting Heybrook Ridge County Park near Index, wrote a letter in support of the Snohomish County Index-Galena Road restoration project on Feb. 10, asking the Federal Highway Administration for a Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant. The U.S. Forest Service and Snohomish County jointly submitted a FLAP application for grant monies to supplement construction emergency relief and local funds.

Index residents also sent a letter to public officials last March, including everyone from the Federal Highway Administration to the county's strategic tourism coordinator. The letter expressed a "deep concernGÇ¥ about the washout and urged officials to "find a way to prioritize the Index- Galena Road repair to support the economy of the area.GÇ¥

Catherine Higgins, Snohomish County Public Works communications specialist, said she's aware of the efforts that have been made by the county and other agencies to repair Index-Galena Road.

She also provided some updates on necessary local, state and federal approvals that are needed.

"Due to Index-Galena Road's location on United States Forest Service land and the proposed relocation of the road, this project has required extensive interagency coordination with multiple federal, tribal, state and county government agencies. Over a period of at least 12 months, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be reviewing the draft environmental assessment. Once completed, this document will be uploaded to Snohomish County's Index-Galena Road webpage for public viewing. After the release of the environmental assessment, Snohomish County will have a public comment period. We hope to address any concerns voiced to us during this time.GÇ¥

Snohomish County Public Works has evaluated modifying the roadway alignment to reduce the cost of the project in the past year, including reducing the amount of proposed retaining walls and overall project footprint.

"The county is expecting to be in the design, permitting and environmental review process through 2017,GÇ¥ Higgins said. "Construction is estimated to begin on the final segment of Index-Galena Road in the spring of 2018.GÇ¥

Meanwhile, last October's Index-Galena washout at Milepost 3, also due to flooding, is in the final stages of repair and can be driven through by a one-lane gravel road. Despite some recent spray paint vandalism of equipment, repairs should be complete by the end of April.

A rock wall is being built to prevent erosion and protect the road during future flooding. Wood elements anchored by cables running under the road will stabilize the bank. The road, which will be back to two lanes, is to be paved during the dryer summer months.

For more information, go to snohomishcountywa.gov and sign up to receive updates.

Photo by Frances Read Index-Galena Road at Milepost 6.4. The road has been unusable since a 2006 flood.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment