National Park Service (NPS) is implementing several projects in 2015 to upgrade several facilities and operations to reduce the park's carbon footprint. These projects include:
Replace the trash compaction system in Stehekin to reduce waste associated with the use of cardboard compaction containers.
Replace the backup diesel generator in Hozomeen with an energy-efficient model.
Install a new HVAC system at the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem.
Upgrade the restrooms at Colonial Creek Campground by installing dual-flush toilets and replacing faucets with touchless low-flow units. This project is projected to reduce visitor water consumption by up to 70%. Project will be ongoing through 2017.
Establish water meters in the park's facility management system to track and monitor water consumption in buildings.
Transition to 4-stroke, or equivalent technology, requirement for all boats within Ross Lake National Recreation Area (NRA) (as stated in the 2012 Ross Lake NRA General Management Plan).
Colonial Creek Boat Launch on Diablo Lake
The NPS removed accumulated sediment from the Diablo Lake Boat Launch at Colonial Creek Campground this spring to improve accessibility for motorboats and paddle craft on Diablo Lake. Sediment from Rhode and Thunder Creeks has continued to fill in both the boat launch and reservoir upstream of the Highway 20 bridge, making it very difficult for motorboats in particular to get on and off the lake. The NPS anticipates that this portion of Diablo Lake will continue to fill in over the coming decades and will eventually become too shallow for a boat launch or motorboats. The NPS continues to evaluate other alternatives for a safe and sustainable boat launch location, but options are extremely limited given the extremely steep shoreline and restricted public access across Diablo Dam.
Cascade River Road
In 2013, a large debris flow buried the Cascade River Road and washed out the culvert at Boston Creek, approximately one mile from the Cascade Pass Trailhead;at the time, the NPS installed an emergency crossing at the creek to enable visitor access. This fall, the NPS will work with the Federal Highway Administration to remove the temporary crossing at Boston Creek and install a more sustainable, concrete crossing. To enable this work, the last three miles of Cascade River Road will be closed to vehicle and foot traffic from September 8 until late October, 2015. The closure will affect hikers approaching the area from either the east or west sides. The road closure will begin at the El Dorado parking area near mile post 20 and will be in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days per week to allow heavy equipment to use the road safely. Preliminary surveys and erosion control work will begin approximately August 23;visitors may experience wait times along the road for up to 20 minutes at any one time, but the road will remain open through September 7. Access to the El Dorado Climbing Area will not be affected.
The NPS trail crew will continue work this summer and fall on the Sahale Arm Trail to reduce erosion and improve the trail tread. The Sahale Arm Trail, a 2.2 mile spur trail off Cascade Pass, has developed deep, gutted sections, compounded by slick soils and loose rock. To address these issues and reduce further impacts to resources, the NPS will repair and reconstruct, primarily in place, sections of the trail that have been most affected by erosion and poor drainage. Much of this work includes the use of native rock and scree to install drainage devices and improve the trail tread. After careful review, the NPS has approved the use of a helicopter to transport necessary materials. Helicopter flights will be restricted to Monday-Thursday. No closure of the trail is anticipated;however visitors traveling to the area may experience increased levels of noise during project implementation. Following completion of the trail work, the NPS will restore and revegetate all work areas.
Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light (SCL), which operates four hydroelectric dams within Ross Lake National Recreation Area (Gorge, Diablo, Ross, and Newhalem), will implement a number of projects in Ross Lake National Recreation Area this year. The most noteworthy of these projects include:
Reinstallation of the barge landing on the east side of Diablo Lake. This will involve the closure of the Diablo Lake trail bridge near the Ross Dam Powerhouse and drawing down Diablo Lake as much as ten feet (to 1192 feet above sea level) through June 15th and again from September 15 through the end of October. The lower water levels will make the Diablo Lake boat launch at Colonial Creek campground inaccessible to motor and some paddle boats and could therefore impact trip plans for boaters wanting to access Ross Lake. Please call the Wilderness Information Center at 360-854-7245 for more information.
Changes to the locations of the NPS/kayak dock and Ross Ferry Dock on the east side of Diablo Lake will enable easier foot traffic for guests at Ross Lake Resort. These docks will be in place and accessible to the public by June 12, 2015.
Installation of an onsite septic system in the town of Diablo will require the use of heavy equipment as well as excavation and long-term staging of soil within Diablo. Visitors to the Stetattle or Sourdough trails may experience increased noise levels and disturbance from this project, which may extend throughout the summer;parking should remain available at the trailheads. SCL has more work planned in 2016 to remove houses and the waste water treatment facility in Diablo, both of which will require major restoration after demolition.
Buckner Homestead Orchard
NPS historic preservation staff will complete repairs to the foundation of the main house within the Buckner Homestead Historic District in Stehekin. The old foundation of the house was comprised of a variety of materials such as logs, river cobble, and concrete blocks, but once this project is complete, the structure will be protected and stabilized with a reinforced concrete foundation that meets code.
Wilderness Character Monitoring and Baseline Assessment
NPS plans to complete a Wilderness Character Monitoring Plan and associated Wilderness Character Baseline Assessment for the park by fall 2015. These documents will help lay the foundation and inform the planning process for a new Wilderness Stewardship Plan through compilation and evaluation of a large body of existing information on the Stephen Mather Wilderness.
Mountain Lakes Fisheries
On July 25, 2014, President Obama approved the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act (H.R. 1158), which directed the Secretary of the Interior to authorize fish stocking in 42 naturally-fishless lakes in North Cascades National Park Service Complex, including the Stephen Mather Wilderness. Over the past six years, the NPS has been working to restore several mountain lakes within the park, in accordance with the 2008 Mountain Lakes Fisheries Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Fisheries Plan), through the removal of non-native, high-density, self-sustaining populations of fish from several lakes. Monitoring results following these efforts indicate native species such as the tailed frog, Western Toad, long-toed salamander, and Northwestern salamander are rapidly returning to these lakes when the high-density populations are controlled. This year, in accordance with H.R. 1158, NPS staff will collaborate with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify lakes that are appropriate for stocking under the Act and implement strategies that will minimize the impacts to the natural areas of the park. While the NPS acknowledges that the presence of fish in a naturally-fishless lake often results in negative impacts to natural food webs, the Fisheries Plan helps to mitigate these impacts by identifying lakes for stocking that possess water quality and physical habitat characteristics that have demonstrated some resiliency in the presence of native, non-reproducing species of fish. The plan also identified species of fish that could be stocked and specific rates at which stocking could occur in order to further minimize impacts. The Fisheries Plan incorporates monitoring as a part of all future stocking efforts in order assess impacts from stocking and ensure impacts do not exceed certain thresholds. The NPS will continue to remove non-native, high-density, self-sustaining populations of fish from specific lakes identified for fish removal in the Fisheries Plan and monitor the lakes following treatment. This includes the removal of a non-native, high-density population of cutthroat trout from Skymo Lake and Upper Skymo Lakes this September. The NPS will also work with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and recreational groups to stock Willow Lake, Ridley Lake, Middle Thornton Lake, and potentially the pond southeast of Kettling sometime this summer.
Wilderness Character Monitoring and Baseline Assessment
North Cascades National Park Service Complex and Mount Rainier National Park is collaborating with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore the fisher (Pekania pennanti) to these units of the national park system. Fisher reintroductions could occur at Mount Rainier National Park as early as fall 2015. Fisher reintroductions at North Cascades will likely not occur until fall 2017. More information on the fisher environmental assessment is available online at parkplanning.nps.gov/RestoreFisher.
North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement
The planning process is underway by the NPS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (Plan/EIS). Six community meetings were held early March at various locations around the state;the public comment period ended in late March. A Public Comment Summary is available on the project website at parkplanning.nps.gov/nceg by early summer 2015. Next steps include the release of the draft Plan/EIS in summer 2016 and a final Plan/EIS in late 2017. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the planning effort during both of these periods.